Ballymena U18s bounced back from their league final defeat last month to claim a place in the Ulster Cup Semi Final.
They took on local rivals Carrick in a fixture which defied the weather on Saturday at Tom Sims Memorial Park. Ballymena ran out 34-12 winners on the day to claim their place in the semi-finals with a final place at the Kingspan Stadium awaiting the winner.
Ballymena started strongly, full back Mark McSparren scoring after 8 minutes following some superb phase play and deft offloads involving Houston, Heggarty and Carson which stretched the Carrick defence before Mcsparren powered over the line.
Try number 2 followed shortly afterwards, Ballymena pressuring the Carrick line and forcing a penalty, a quick tap and leg drive from Captain Craig Houston was enough to cross the whitewash to double the lead, Ben Robinson adding the conversion.
Carrick struck back after 24 minutes, pressure the in Ballymena 22 finally told as the defenders failed to stop the Carrick pack pushing over the line from close range and it seemed like the home sider were getting a toehold in the game. But Ballymena quickly struck back, a scrum in Carrick territory set up a platform for the backs to attack, which they did – slick hands from Thom, Mitchel and Aiden McSparren making an overlap for winger Daniel Kelly to take advantage of.
Ballymena were now in the ascendancy with McClung, Shaw, Wylie and and Holding all carrying hard into the opposition defensive line, an individual bit of brilliance by Heggarty including a step, dummy and offload by Heggarty set up a try for Zach Carmichael on the stroke of half time.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Ballymena threatening the Carrick line numerous times, Heggarty capped an outstanding performance with a try on 50 minutes, pressuring the Carrick attack into spilling the ball before picking the ball up and striding in from 25 metres for a try under the posts.
However, a determined Carrick side pressed again, taking advantage of the away side’s loose pass to break from their own half and score in the corner despite a frantically chasing defence. 29-12 to Ballymena.
The Braidmen asserted their authority again, Armstrong and Carson carrying hard to set up field position and Thom distributing the ball to Robinson who threw a miss pass to winger Kelly who touched down in the corner.
Final score 24-12. Ballymena will now await the draw for the semi-final to see who they will meet next.