Ballymena inconsistent start to the season continued on Saturday with a defeat at home to Banbridge. With injuries and unavailability of some key players, Ballymena had new combinations throughout the team and this proved to be their undoing against a more settled Banbridge team.
The visitors, who will this year join Andy Hughes’ side in AIL division 2A, dominated the opening exchanged with Ballymena failing to gain any meaningful possession in the opening quarter. Following a 50-22 kick, resulting in a lineout 5 metres out, Banbridge opened the scoring with a lineout maul overpowering the Ballymena pack. This was followed up soon after, when some smart interplay between the visitors backline, allowed centre Morrison to go over for a 12-0 lead.
The home side, led by some strong ball carrying from the pack, enjoyed much of the possession and territory in the second quarter, with attack after attack being held out without reward. when Ballymena had the try line in their sights, the attack broke down and the efforts were to go unrewarded.
Just when Ballymena needed to get back into the game, a high tackle in midfield awarded Banbridge a penalty just over half way. Some questioning of the referee’s decision was punished with being marched back another 10 metres into kickable range. Banbridge’s outhalf obliged with a successful penalty, taking their lead to 15 unanswered points at half time.
Ballymena’s half time team talk would have stressed the importance of scoring first in the second half to get back into the game, however the visitors scored 2 tries in quick succession in the first 5 minutes, to increase the defecit to 27-0.
It took almost 60 minutes for Ballymena to open their account when substitute Peter Wallace crossed the Banbridge line with a typically powerful carry from close range. The momentum swung the way of the home side at this stage and Pierce Crowe, showing his versatility playing at 10, made a scintillating break from an attacking lineout, spotting a hole in the opposition backline from 40 metres out and weaved through the covering defence for a fine solo try.
Ballymena’s consistent captain, Adam Lamont, scored an opportunistic try in the closing minutes of the game. With the ball being dropped in mid field, a hack through resulted in Banbridge being penalised close to their own line. Lamont reacted the quickest, with a quick tap penalty and the final try of the game to leave the final score at 27-19.
Team vs Banbridge:
Butler, M. Lamont, Mawhinney, C. Smith, Milford, Howe, A. Lamont, Dick, Robson, Crowe, C. Drain, S. Millar, Ervine, D. Millar, Ritson. Subs: Taggart, Mark, Wallace, Fleck, C. Smyth.
Earlier in the day, Ballymena 2XV secured victory with the final kick of the game, Joe O’Rawe who was 100% from the tee on the day, slotted a penalty from the half way line to defeat Queen’s University 38-36 in an entertaining encounter.