Derby honours again for Ballyclare.
Ballyclare faced neighbouring rivals Carrickfergus for the second time in 12 days, this time the action was at the Cloughan. President Alistair Lindsay welcomed Carrick President Craig Addley and a party of Carrickfergus Officials to the Cloughan at a prematch lunch attended by 90 people. The game was generously sponsored by Max McConnell of the 5 Corners Guest Inn. Life Member James Hagan also took the opportunity to entertain guests at the derby game. The club really appreciate the generous support of both. Former President Moore Kennedy sponsored the match ball, Vice-Presidents Robin Byers and David Campbell sponsored the man of the match award.
Niall Lawther and Robbie Reid returned to the starting XV, both having missed the game in Carrick on Boxing Day. They took the place of James Greer, who suffered a concussion in Carrick and Johnny Holmes. The rest of the team started as they did in Carrickfergus. Weather conditions were perfect for rugby, dry overhead with no wind.
Sadly, another minutes silence had to be observed prior to kick off. This time for another former President of Ballyclare RFC, Mr Jim White, who passed away on Christmas Day. Ballyclare kicked off and immediately took play deep into Carrick territory. An early penalty attempt at goal from wide right was just missed by Robert Smith. With 12 minutes on the clock, Jordan McKinstry stole the ball from a Carrick throw at a line out on the Carrick 22m. Hooker Craig Smith ran a great line at pace collecting a pass to run in and touch down just to the left of the posts for the first try of the afternoon. Robert Smith added the conversion to give Ballyclare a 7-0 lead.
The heavier Carrick pack who were having the upper hand in the scrums forced play into the Ballyclare half on 20 mins. Ballyclare’s young prop Dean Jones picked up an injury and was forced to withdraw from the action, Willie Logan took his place in the front row and performed well. Ballyclare were penalised at a ruck and Carrick struck a long range penalty from wide right to pull 3 points back. Carrick had another long range penalty attempt 5 mins later but the ball fell just short.
As the half drew to a close, a terrific piece of play by Ballyclare saw them attack the Carrick line wide right from around the Carrick 10m line. Slick inter-passing involving Gary Weatherup, Robert Smith and Stuart Cusick tore the Carrick defence apart. Weatherup finished the move by crossing the line to the right of the posts. A late hit on Weatherup, after he touched down, earned Carrick a yellow card and they played the first 10 mins of the second period with 14 men. Smith added the conversion to give Ballyclare a half time lead of 14-3.
Early in the second period Smith hit a long range penalty, in front of posts, to increase Ballyclare’s lead to 17-3. Ballyclare continued to dominate possession and territory in the early part of the second half. From an attacking scrum inside Carrick’s 22m, possession of the ball was secured. The ball was worked right and recycled through a couple of phases before lock Grant Bartley got his hands on the ball and barged over to score. Smith again added the conversion. 24-3
With 20mins still on the clock there was still time for Ballyclare to get the important fourth try for a bonus point. The bonus point score came when just inside the Carrick half, Robert Boyd scooped up a loose ball, close to the left hand touch line. Robert drove forward before passing outside to Dave Clarke who advanced towards the Carrick line. Clarke passed inside to the supporting Robert Smith who carried before passing outside again to wing Michael Kirk who finished the fine move, touching down wide left. The conversion just missed by Smith. 29-3.
A superb performance by the Ballyclare team in front of a sizeable crowd. There were several contenders for the man of the match award, McKinstry, Bartley and inspirational skipper Gary Weatherup showed well in the forwards with Smith, Reid and Clarke shining in a well-functioning back line. The nod went to hooker Craig Smith who had an excellent day in attack and defence.
The bonus point win lifted Ballyclare to 3rd in the Championship 1 table well placed behind leaders Instonians and joint on points with Omagh who have a game in hand. They play at home again next week, when they will try to overturn a narrow defeat encountered in Enniskillen in December.
Ballyclare 1-15; D Jones, C Smith, A Boyd, R Boyd, G Bartley, R Tweed, G Weatherup, J McKinstry, T Holland, R Smith, M Kirk, D Clarke, R Reid, S Cusick, N Lawther
Replacements; W Logan, R McIlwaine.
Ballyclare 2nd XV travelled to play their Omagh counterparts and played well although went down 38-20. The 3rd XV suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of an experienced Malone 4th XV.