Ballymena under 18s took on Cambridge House in a late season friendly under floodlights at Eaton Park last night.
The game saw 2 evenly matched teams pitched against each other, and the scoreline was close all the way through. The early spoils went to Cambridge House, capitalising on Ballymena misdemeans at the breakdown by slotting over 2 penalties to take them to 6-0 up after 20 minutes of the game.
As both sides defended determinedly neutralising attacking endevours the game became a battle of the gainline, and it was the home side who started to get a toe hold into the game and Ben Robinson cut the deficit to 3 with a penalty kick on25 minutes.
The home side had a number of injuries to the regular U18s and some of the U16s stepped in last minute to make up numbers, the new recruits acquitted themselves very well, including har working James Lynn who crossed the whitewash to put the home side up 10 points to 6 at half time.
After the break Cambridge House burst out of the blocks, a series of home infringements giving them a number of penalties, and eventually a tap and go penalty breached the Ballymena line and the visitors were ahead again by a single point.
Cambridge House pressed again and the home defence had to work hard to repel a series of attacks within their 22, eventually turning over the ball and clearing their lines.
The Ballymena pack started to make ground in midfield and a try from second row Timmy Carson put the Braidmen back in front on 55 minutes by 17 points to 11 after pressure in the Cambridge House 22. The game was now on a knife edge, both teams showing ambition in attack with the wet conditions forcing some handling errors.
Ballymena again got field position and an infringement in the breakdown by Cambridge house gave them a penalty in kicking range, James Orr stepping up and slotting over a 3 pointer to take his side 2 scores up with 14 minutes to go.
Despite being down to 14 men, after a yellow card, Ballymena held steady and saw out the game for the victory, a true team effort with all players giving their all for the club.
Friendships and local rivalries made for a competitive game that was played in a great spirit.
This will be a welcome send off from Ballymena Youth for a number of the U18 players including Timmy Carson, Daniel Kelly, Ryan Thom, Craig Houston, Tiarnan Heggarty, Jonnie Wylie, Mark McSparren, Aidan McSparren, Kevin O’Boyle, Ben Shaw and Connor Crabbe who will leave the youth section this year.