Impressive Clare exit cup in Wexford.
Ballyclare travelled 200 miles to Co Wexford to play competition veterans and current holders Enniscorthy in the quarter final of the All Ireland Junior Cup. A warm welcome was extended by Scorthy President Rory Fanning to the travelling Ballyclare support, on a great day for rugby, bright and dry with little wind. An exciting game of cup rugby ensued with Ballyclare giving a superb account of themselves, controlling possession and territory for much of the game. Going into the last ten minutes Enniscorthy held a 17-13 lead with Ballyclare looking the most likely to increase the scoreboard. Unfortunately two converted tries, including a breakaway one scored in last play in the dying minutes finished Ballyclare’s interest in their first season in the competition. All 20 of the Ballyclare squad put in a display that gained many plaudits from home supporters, players and coaching staff alike.
The home side kicked off and immediately Ballyclare returned play into the Scorthy half. Ballyclare contained Enniscorthy in their own half in the early part of the game. On 15 minutes, Scorthy managed to break into Ballyclare territory. Fast hands through the Scorthy backs, hard running and a missed tackle brought play into the Ballyclare 22. A loose ball at the breakdown was scooped up by the lofty, mobile, Scorthy second row, who ate up the ground with a few strides to touch down under the posts and leave a straightforward conversion. 7-0
Ballyclare continued to force play in the Enniscorthy half and were rewarded with a penalty around the Scorthy 10m line a few minutes later. Robbie Reid put the ball between the uprights to pull 3 points back for Ballyclare. 7-3. Enniscorthy were penalised again at the breakdown but Reid pushed his second attempt at goal from wide left, just past the right post. With 25min gone this left Scorthy still in front, 7-3.
On 35 minutes Ballyclare were penalised at a breakdown, for going off feet, just inside their own 10m line. The kick in front of the posts was missed giving Ballyclare a let off. Ballyclare saw out the first half still in control of play with possession and territory but unfortunately couldn’t get the necessary breakthrough as the half time whistle sounded. 7-3
Ballyclare started the second period as they ended the first, deep in Scorthy territory. When Scorthy were penalised at the breakdown on their own 22 after 7 mins, Reid added 3 points to bring the score back to 1 point difference. 7-6
Scorthy made one of their infrequent ventures deep into Ballyclare territory count soon after. From a defensive scrum in the Ballyclare 22m, Ballyclare won clean ball. No 8, Jordan McKinstry broke left from the base. The Scorthy openside, stripped the ball in the tackle and found his captain Daniel Pim who touched down just to the left of the posts. Conversion added, score was now 14-6.
Captain Gary Weatherup led his team with a tireless work rate. Unfortunately the referee penalised Gary at his second tackle in quick succession for being off-side. Scorthy converted the penalty to increase their lead to 17-6. Ballyclare were soon in Scorthy territory again. A kick at goal for 3 was turned down in the final quarter as the scoreboard dictated more was required. Following a kick to the left corner, at a messy lineout, the ball was secured by Ballyclare. The ball was flashed out the Ballyclare backs where right wing James Greer found room to cross at the corner. Greer came closer to the posts before touching down, leaving an easier conversion for Reid. Reid added the conversion to pull Ballyclare back to 17-13. An unsavoury incident where a Scorthy player kicked Greer in the head following his touchdown, which left him with an injury requiring hospital attention, gave Ballyclare a penalty from the restart, but strangely, no card for the Scorthy player.
Ballyclare went looking for the decisive score but lost the ball in midfield. The tension was palpable as Scorthy progressed into the Clare 22m where a brawl ensued at the breakdown. Having discussed the incident with his IRFU appointed assistant closest to the incident, Ballyclare’s Michael Stevenson was shown a yellow card and took no further part in the game. Scorthy ran the ensuing penalty and got across the Ballyclare line, the conversion added, gave Enniscorthy an unassailable 24-13 lead. This didn’t deter Ballyclare efforts as the team took play into the Enniscorthy half again. A loose ball at the breakdown was ran from inside the Enniscorthy half, down the right wing catching the Clare defence out. The ball was touched down under the posts and the final whistle sounded as the conversion went over. Enniscorthy celebrated their victory and as a disappointed Ballyclare side left the field the supporters talked of a classic cup encounter and the impressive play of Ballyclare.
With pre-Christmas cup interest now ended for Ballyclare, the squad return to league action against Cooke next week and look to get the necessary points to continue their pursuit of a top four league finish and entry into the All Ireland Cup competition again, next season.
Ballyclare 1-15; R Henderson, C Smith, A Boyd, W Logan, G Bartley, M Robson, G Weatherup, J McKinstry, C Morrow, N Lawther, J Greer, R Reid, D Clarke, S Cusick, J Holmes.
Replacements; W Rea, D Jones, M Coulter, M Stevenson, T Holland.
Other games for Ballyclare on Saturday saw the 3rd XV overcome Hinch 6th XV for the second time this season with a 20-12 victory at the Cloughan. Tries in the first half from McComb, Goudy and Ottey and a conversion by Luke Montgomery gave Ballyclare a 17-5 lead. Ballyclare resisted some determined play from Hinch in the second period, a penalty from Andy Watson enough to seal the Cloughan men the points. Jordan Campbell gave a man of the match performance, Peter Beasant impressed in the backs.
The 4th XV continued their league dominance with a sixth straight win, overcoming Dungannon 4’s 57-12 in Dungannon.
Next week’s fixtures, 1st XV away to Cooke, 2nd XV no match, 3rd XV entertain Ballymoney 3’s at the Cloughan. The 4’s travel to play Lurgan 2’s.