On Saturday, Ballymena 1XV secured a much needed victory in horrible conditions against MU Barnhall at Eaton Park. Chasing only their second AIL victory of the season, Ballymena closed out a nervy game in the last few minutes with the match being within one score for most of the 80 minutes.
Pierce Crowe, starting at full back in the absence of Rodger McBurney, opened the scoring with an early penalty to give Ballymena an early 3-0 lead.
Barnhall responded promptly with two tries in quick succession, the visitors capitalised on Ballymena errors and some soft tackling to give them a 12-3 lead in the opening quarter. The sizeable Ballymena crowd, who were trying to shelter from the conditions, worried that another defeat was on the cards.
Ballymena rallied however and with some heroic defending often on their own line, were to keep Barnhall pointless for the rest of the game.
Hooker Mark Lamont reduced the deficit with a try from the back of a lineout maul, bringing the score to 12-8, with Crowe adding another penalty from the half way line to leave the scores at 12-11 to Barnhall at the half time break.
Both teams to their credit were trying to play expansive rugby in the conditions with little reward, a combination of resolute defence and inevitable handling errors keeping scoring opportunities to a minimum.
Ballymena dominated possession for most of the second period with incredible effort and were knocking on the visitors line for long periods and had the upper hand, especially at scrum time with veteran James Taggart causing difficulties for the opposition front row.
With the game hanging in the balance, well deserved man of the match Pierce Crowe was offered a penalty on the Barnhall 10m line and into a strong wind and driving rain, showed incredible nerve to slot the ball between the uprights for a 14-12 lead.
Ballymena held on in the remaining few minutes for a welcome victory and vital 4 points, especially with rivals Malone beating Banbridge in a local derby. This coming Saturday, Ballymena travel to Gibson park to play Malone in a a hugely important game for both sides.
Tries: M. Lamont
Pen: Crowe 3
Butler, M. Lamont, Mawhinney, Milford, P. Browne, A. Lamont, Glass, Dick, Weerarathne, T. Ferguson, McGuckian, S. Millar, Patterson, Ervine, Crowe. Reps: Taggart, Mark, P. Hargy, Fleck, Baillie