Ballymena will regret their first-half performance as they lost 34-24 to Nenagh in Division 2A of the AIL on Saturday.
Trailing 29-3 at the break after a dismal first-half showing, the men in black responded to bring themselves back into the game at 29-24 before the home side ran in to seal the victory 34-24.
Coach Andy Hughes was not happy after the final whistle.
“I am bitterly disappointed, but to get to where we were from the first half was good. We had a chance five minutes from the end. We had a lineout with five minutes to go near their line, and I thought it was going to be our day because we were due one of those, but it was’t to be.
“The guys in the second half put in an unbelievable effort, but we gave away too many soft scores in the first twenty from turnovers. I have a mixture of disappointment and pride. Disappointment after the first half performance and pride in our performance in the second half. We had a chance, and probably could have sneaked it at the end, but it wasn’t to be.”
And Hughes knows that it is very hard to fight back after such a poor first half.
“We couldn’t get a bounce of the ball, and for every little mistake we made they pounced on and made us pay. There was a lot of frustration at halftime, and we decided at to try and forget about the score and go out and play some rugby in the second half. We just wanted to put in a performance in that second half and get ourselves back in the game.
“They played really well in that second 40 minutes, and we are disappointed we didn’t come away with more from the game,” he added.
The home side took the lead as Josh Rowland ran in from a distance to score after some poor defensive play from Ballymena. Conor McMahon added the conversion.
McMahon scored a penalty shortly afterwards to extend their lead.
Nenagh winger Nicky Irwin then crossed the Ballymena line after a nice move. McMahon converted.
Ballymena finally got on the scoreboard as Ross McKay kicked a penalty for the visitors.
But Ballymena’s joy was short-lived as John O’Flaherty scored a converted try.
Just before the break, Nenagh scored again as McMahon converted his own try to give the home side a commanding lead at half-time.
Shortly after the break, Nenagh was reduced to 14 players as one of their forwards was yellow-carded.
Adam Lamont then struck for Ballymena as he showed great strength to crash over. McKay converted, and this seemed to lift the visitors.
Ballymena number 8 Riley grabbed a nice try after a good phase of play from Ballymena. McKay converted, and it was now game on.
Minutes later it seemed the comeback was on as Pierce Crowe crossed for a try from a maul. McKay – who was having a good day with the boot – converted.
Ballymena were now in the ascendancy, and another score looked on the cards as they had a lineout near the Nenagh line.
Sadly the lineout was lost, and Nenagh ran the length of the pitch to score a try through Patrick Scully, and the game was finally out of reach of Ballymena.
Final score Nenagh 34 Ballymena 24.
Nenagh: J Rowland, N Irwin, W Coffey, P Scully, C McMahon, C. Corcoran, H Hayes, J. O’Flaherty, R Buckley, J O’Kelly, K O’Flaherty, N O’Gorman, D Murphy M Doran.
Subs: P O’Connor, J O’Keefe, E Murphy, J Brislane, C O’Brien.
Ballymena: 1. S McWhirter, 2. A Ferguson, 3. J Mawhinney, 4. J Howe, 5. P Browne, 6. D Mckeeman, 7. A Lamont (c). 8. B Riley. 9. A Robson
10. R McKay, 11. L McGuckian, 12. P Crowe, 13. R Irvine, 14. M Thompson, 15. R McBurney.
Subs: 16. J Taggart, 17. D Forsythe, 18. A Mitchell, 19. D Millar, 20. S Fleck.