Ballymena’s last away trip in this season’s AIL campaign ended with defeat against a Navan side requiring a point to secure their Division 2A status for next season. Having secured their own survival in the previous game, Ballymena struggled to get into the game in the first twenty minutes and were punished with early tries from set pieces.
Looking like the hungrier side, Navan scored 2 tries off lineouts. The first, a result of some poor tackling allowing Navan openside flanker Connor Farrell to break through from the 22m line to score. This was followed soon after when the home pack mauled from mid way through the 22 with the Ballymena pack struggling to halt the momentum in driving rain for an early 14-0 lead.
Ballymena put the first quarter behind them, starting to grow into the game and holding on to the ball for extended periods. Their endeavour was not rewarded however, and Navan added a further try before half time. Navan centre Evan Dixon exploited a gaping hole in the Ballymena defence to extend the lead to 21-0.
Half time: Navan 21 – 0 Ballymena
Andy Hughes team talk and half time changes, bringing on Andrew Ferguson, Simon McWhirter and Ross McKay had an immediate effect. McWhirter made a line break around half way and further fine interplay involving Paddy Browne and Ben Riley allowed Ferguson to go over for his third try in two games.
Soon after, Navan secured the try scoring bonus point and 2A status when a Ballymena lineout went astray, the bouncing ball was pounced on and dotted down much to the delight of the home crowd.
With the game seemingly out of reach for the visitors, Ireland under 20s star James McNabney scored a stunning individual try from his own half. McKay put McNabney through a gap and showing great pace and strength, to outstrip the covering defence. McKay added the conversion to leave the scores 26-12.
Ballymena continued to try and close the gap and were rewarded with a late Josh Mark try, his first in an AIL game. After a series of close range drives, Mark managed the squeeze through a gap in the defence. Again, McKay converted to secure a losing bonus point, with the final score 26-19.
Ballymena’s final AIL game is a home fixture against Blackrock College on 15th April, with a sold out pre match lunch providing entertainment for visitors, sponsors and guests alike.