Ballyclare dismantle Dromore.
Ballyclare continued their fine form in the Kukri Championship Division 1 with an impressive 41-18 win away at Dromore. Six tries by five different players, Johnny Holmes bagging a brace, saw off a stubborn, physical Dromore side.
The pitch at Dromore was in great condition, firm under foot after a week of dry weather. Conditions on the day were dry and bright with a light breeze on Barban Hill, perfect conditions for running rugby. Coach, Mike McKeever was forced to reshuffle his deck yet again due to the unavailability of Niall Lawther and Robbie Reid and the loss of Robert Boyd who took a knock at training on Thursday evening. Johnny Holmes and a returning from injury James Greer came into the back line while Ross Johnston partnered Grant Bartley in the second row. Last year’s U18 hooker Matthew Coulter was given a continuing introduction to the senior team with a place on the bench.
Dromore kicked off and started the game with ferocious intent. A series of pick and goes at pace forced Ballyclare deep into their own 22m. Ballyclare resisted the challenge and forced play back out to the 10m but then were penalised at a ruck, giving Dromore an early kick at goal in front of the posts. The penalty was converted giving Dromore the early lead. 3-0. Ballyclare then started to play, working their way through a series of phases into the Dromore red zone. Dromore were penalised and Robert Smith levelled the scores with a pen on 15min.
On 25min Ballyclare still keeping play in Dromore territory turned down the opportunity for another 3 points and showed their intentions in the game by kicking to touch in the right corner. Grant Bartley secured clean ball at four in the lineout and popped the ball off the top for Tommy Holland to release the backs. The ball was moved along the backs at pace with full back Holmes joining the line and touching down in the opposite corner. Robert Smith struck the conversion from wide left well and added the two extra points. 3-10
Dromore responded with a period of territory and possession in the Ballyclare half. With play between the 22 and 10m lines in the Ballyclare half. Robert Smith intercepted a slow pass in the Dromore back line. Smith, at pace, caught out a fairly flat Dromore backline bursting forward and put right wing James Greer away with a well-timed pass. Greer had the pace to outstrip the Dromore defence to run half the pitch and score to the right of the posts. Smith added the conversion. 3-17. Ballyclare kept Dromore scoring opportunities to another kick at goal, which they converted. Smith uncharacteristically mishit a penalty attempt at goal towards the end the half and was heavily involved in another Ballyclare move which resulted in wing James Greer being held up over the line right at the end of the half. The Ballyclare speed of foot and accurate passing was relentless. Smith was closing in on the Dromore line but was tackled, Smith cleverly offloaded the ball round the back of his tackler to release James Greer again, but Greer was held up as he drove for the line.
Early in the second half, Ballyclare who were having a dominant afternoon in the scrum, secured another clean platform to mount an attack. Play broke left a series of driving mauls progressed the ball towards the Dromore line. When Dromore managed to stop the advancing Ballyclare pod the ball was moved at pace out the backs where Ryan Tweed, moved to replace an injured James Greer on the wing finished the move in the right corner. The conversion was missed. 6-22
Dromore on their next incursion into Ballyclare territory got their first try of the afternoon when a missed tackle allowed them to score. 11-22. Johnny Holmes scored his second try of the afternoon after a break by replacement hooker Matthew Coulter. Coulter showed his power over a short distance bursting through the Dromore defence, a well weighted pass gave Holmes the opportunity to weave his way past the last couple of defenders to score. Smith added the conversion, 11-29.
Perhaps the best try of the afternoon followed. Grant Bartley gathered a loose ball and passed right to a call from a charging Robert Smith who burst through the Dromore defence taking play into the Dromore half. A pass right found Ryan Tweed who progressed towards the line. As the last defender was approached a pass inside to Gary Weatherup at pace, left Gary able to round the posts to gave himself an easy touchdown. Fast, efficient running rugby at its best. Smith converted again. 11-36.
Dromore caught out a complacent Ballyclare defence again soon after a quickly taken penalty inside the Clare 22 caught Ballyclare out as Dromore ran the ball and found a gap to score their second try of the day. The conversion was added 18-36. Matthew Coulter got just reward, and capped a great personal performance with a powerful drive over the line to score the final try at the end of the game. 18-41.
A superb team performance, forwards dominant in the scrum and lineouts. The backline moving the ball with speed and accuracy. A great game of rugby. The bonus point win kept Ballyclare in touch at the top of the table. Instonians and Omagh also recording bonus point wins.
Ballyclare 1-15; Neil Kirk, C Smith, A Boyd, R Johnston, G Bartley, R Tweed, G Weatherup, J McKinstry, T Holland, R Smith, J Greer, S Cusick, D Clarke, M Kirk, J Holmes.
Replacements, W Logan, M Coulter.
At the Cloughan the 3rd XV backed up their league win last week with another great performance. Birthday boy, Andy Watson got the scoring going with an early penalty. The opposition, Dungannon 4’s started to keep the ball tight making things difficult for Ballyclare. Ballyclare picked up 2 yellows but a great defensive effort kept Dungannon from scoring when enjoying numerical advantage on the pitch. Watson slotted another penalty to put Ballyclare 6-0 up. When the teams were at 15 players each again Andy Watson added a try but was unable to convert. Just before half time Stevie Beasant looked like he had scored Ballyclare’s second try but very honestly told to the referee he had put a foot in touch. In the second period the 3’s hit their stride adding tries by Watson, Chris Gillen, Ryan Larmour, Kenny McComb and Raymond Farren. A strong 49-0 team victory with special mention and Clarke McCartney, Stuart Campbell and Dave Roger in the forwards. Gillen and Beasant showed well in the backs. Mark Pyper switched from first half centre to second half second row and was outstanding.
The 4’s encountered the rejuvenated Malone 4’s team who inflicted another heavy defeat on a Ballyclare side following on from the 3’s defeat to the same side a couple of weeks ago.
Next weeks matches
1st XV v Ards
2nd XV v Omagh 2’s
4th Xv v Ballynahinch 6’s