Ballymena put the disappointment of the last minute defeat to Barnhall behind them with a bonus point win against Dolphin at Eaton Park.
Playing with a strong wind in the first half, the home side struggled to control possession against a larger Dolphin forward pack. Ireland Under 20s player James McNabney made a welcome return to the Ballymena team, missing Adam Lamont through suspension.
Dolphin opened the scoring with a penalty in the first quarter before a well executed blindside move saw Curtis Henry break the line before feeding the returning James Howe in under the post for a converted try to leave the half time score 7-3. With a strong wind and conditions threatening to take a turn for the worst, many questioned whether a 4 point lead was enough.
Ballymena had little choice but to keep the ball in hand more in the second half and were eventually rewarded for some brave play. Making the decision to move the ball wide from a scrum in their own 22, the ball was spread to winger Henry who again broke the line up, bringing play into the opposition half before he kicked ahead. Captain on the day, Callum Patterson, beat the covering defence to the ball to extend the lead to 14-3.
At this stage, the next score was vital and Patterson turned down a kickable penalty, choosing instead to go for the corner. Stuart Donald who was accurate with his lineout throw, controlled the ball at the back of the maul and the home pack powered over to extend the lead to 19-3.
Dolphin responded with a try of their own before Ballymena sealed the game with a bonus point try in the last few minutes. James Howe found himself as the play maker, throwing a long pass to Dean Millar who stepped inside the covering defence to score. Ross McKay converted to bring the final score to 26-10.
Next up is a trip to Old Crescent in Limerick next Saturday before the last home AIL game of the calendar year against local rivals Queens on 10th September.
Ballymena 2XV also progressed to the next round of the Town’s Cup with a 34 – 14 win against Omagh.
Team vs Dolphin
Mark, Donald, McWhirter, Browne, McKee, Howe, Glass, McNabney, Weerarathne, McKay, Henry, Patterson, Ervine, Millar, Ritson. Subs: G Hargy, Logan, Browne, McClean, Robson