Magnificent Seven by Ballyclare in Ards
On Saturday Ballyclare RFC 1st XV travelled to Hamilton Park, the home of league strugglers, Ards. Weather and pitch conditions were excellent for the Championship League 1 fixture. A more settled side saw Al Boyd return to the starting line-up, with Michael Rainey and Ross Johnston taking up the replacement spots the only changes to the side which played Ballymena 2’s last week.
Ballyclare kept Ards pinned in their half for the first 15 mins. The opportunity for a couple of kickable penalties were passed up in favour of going for the corners in pursuit of higher reward. Early scrummaging was dominated by Ballyclare. Ards were penalised for collapsing at a scrum as Ballyclare nearly drove them off their own ball. The penalty taken quickly released Ballyclare’s attack. Swift recycling at the breakdown saw Robbie Reid at out-half cut through the Ards defence before passing to Stewart Cusick who couldn’t be stopped from crashing over just to the left of the posts. Reid added the conversion to give Ballyclare a 7-0 lead.
Five minutes later Ballyclare added their second try. Showing no let-up in the assault on the Ards line the Ballyclare forwards rucked and recycled a couple of times under the Ards posts. The ball was swept left, Reid passing to full back Greer, who took the ball at pace before completing the chain to Michael Kirk who touched down in the left corner. Reid was just wide with his conversion attempt.
Ballyclare added their third try immediately from the kick off. Ards floated the restart kick directly into touch and were brought back for the scrum in the centre of the field. Clean ball won in the scrum saw Colin Morrow start the movement, passing left to Reid. Reid put the backs away. James Greer received the pass bursting deep into Ards territory. A well times pass found Stewart Cusick who released his centre partner Dave Clarke. Clarke pushed off the last Ards defender and touched down.
The bonus point score, on the half hour mark went to James Greer, who was having a busy afternoon enjoying the freedom to run with the ball. Ryan Tweed showed great strength in the tackle releasing Greer to dart in and touch down in the right hand corner. Reid just missed with the wide conversion attempt. 0-22.
Ards pulled 3 points back with a long range penalty in front of the posts. Ards frustrations boiled over yet again when their centre was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Stewart Cusick. This was Ards second yellow of the afternoon.
Ballyclare added a fifth try early in the second half. Hard tackling by the Clare forwards saw them turn over the ball in the centre of the park. A loose ball was seized by Cusick and the ground in front of him opened up to allow him to cut through for a score under the posts. Reid added the conversion to increase Ballyclare’s lead to 29-3. Ards to their credit made the second half much more difficult for Ballyclare and with fifteen minutes gone in the second period got their reward. A penalty kicked to the corner gave them good field position. In the following phases with no way through in the middle of the field a loopy miss pass gave their winger the room to score in the right corner. 29-8.
The score gave Ards a lift and they continued to resist Ballyclare until the last quarter. Grant Bartley spent 10 mins on the side lines for a tackle the referee adjudged to be late. From a kick to the corner Ballyclare set up a driving maul from the line out. Ards resisted the drive as the maul crabbed in field. The ball was released to the backs through Morrow and Reid. Reid found Greer travelling at pace to cut the Ards defence and score just to the right of the posts. Reid added the extras. 36-8.
As the game was drawing to a close a superb break by Colin Morrow saw him powering for the line. A great pass found the returned to action Bartley. Grant was tackled just short of the line but showed great strength to reach and touch down for Clare’s seventh try of the afternoon. As Reid’s forth conversion of the day went between the posts the referee sounded the final whistle. 43-8.
A superb seven try rout by the Cloughan men, the forwards providing clean ball for the backs to contribute six of the trys. Line outs and scrums were all controlled by Ballyclare. The last couple of performance should give the team confidence ahead of next weeks All Ireland Junior Cup game against Richmond in Limerick.
Ballyclare 1-15; R Henderson, D Jones, A Boyd, R Boyd, G Bartley, J McKinstry, G Weatherup, W Logan, C Morrow, R Reid, M Kirk, D Clarke, S Cusick, R Tweed, J Greer
Replacements; R Johnston, M Rainey.
In Magherafelt the 2nd XV missed out, going down 19-10 against Rainey 2’s. The 3rd XV were unlucky away to Dungannon 4’s where a great first half performance saw them 10-5 up at the break. Versatile veteran Johnston game on at hooker before half time and was seen to take a ball against the head! Stuart Gilmore got the Ballyclare try in the first half. Dungannon kept pressure on in the second half and despite great effort the team went down 19-10. There were good performances up front from Mark Eccles and Stuart Campbell, with ’Squishy’ Stephenson and Gilmore showing well in the backs.
The 4’s continued their dominance in the same league with a strong 38-13 win at the Cloughan over Ballymoney 3’s.
Fixtures this week sees Bangor 2’s visit the Cloughan on Thursday evening to play the 2nd XV, 8pm. Saturday sees Ballyclare 1st XV play Richmond in the All Ireland Junior Cup, whilst the 4th XV entertain Malone 4’s in a top of the table clash at the Cloughan.