Ballymena U18s took on top of the table Coleraine in a rearranged fixture at Eaton Park on Saturday, the result of which would determine who tops the league table moving into the last week of league fixtures.
The Coleraine team had been undefeated in the league and the clash saw two well organised and physical teams lock heads. It was Ballymena who started the stronger, dominating possession and territory moving through multiple phases of play. However a stout and well organised Coleraine defence stood their ground in an attritional first 5 minutes.
However Ballymena final broke through following a scrum on the opposition 10 metre line, prop Josh Mclung scoring after the Coleraine defence was stretched after the team went through a number of phases to create the space.
The visitors came back from the kick off and after Ballymena repeatedly failed to clear their lines Coleraine got field position and Mark McSparren made a try saving tackle to prevent a certain try for the visitors as their backs broke clean through the Ballymena line. Pressure on the Ballymena line continued and Coleraine took advantage of tap penalties for their pack to burrow over from close range, the try was converted to make the score 7-5 to the visitors on 20 minutes.
The rest of the half saw a physical contents with Ballymena having most of the possession and territory but unable to convert this into points; however they finally crossed the line on the stroke of half time when the Coleraine defence was again stretched, creating an opportunity for flanker Ben Shaw to cross the line, the try was converted by Ben Robinson to make the half time score 12-7.
After half time both teams came out firing and this made for a compelling physical tussle with organised defences repelling the opposition attack time after time. But the next score came from right wing Aidan McSparren who took advantage of an overlap in the backs to score in the corner, score 17-7 to Ballymena.
The game became a stop start affair as both teams strived for advantage, but the Ballymena pack’s physicality eventually told when Timmy Carson scored a try after a series of pick and gos, try converted by Robinson.
Coleraine pushed back strongly and scored again after Ballymena had repeatedly infringed in their own 22. Score 24-12 as the game moved into the last 10 minutes.
Coleraine pressed again but Ballymena’s defence held tight and they cleared their lines, a kick chase saw Coleraine take the ball over their own line. From the resulting 5 metre scrum Ballymena scored again as they stretched the away defence, Aidan McSparren crossing the line again to make the final score 29-12.
Photos courtesy of Chris Armstrong