Coleraine came out tops in a thrilling and very close fought local derby at Ballymoney on Saturday winning by a single point in the end.
The visitors came away with the narrowest of victories, and a scoreline of 21-22. They had to dig deep in defence in the final ten minutes of the game as Ballymoney threw everything into making the best of a temporary one man advantage and there was relief when the whistle drew the game to a close.
Speaking after the game coach Richard Beggs said: “What a nail-biter of a game. It swung back and forwards but more power to our boys for putting in a great defence and holding on to the lead in the final period.
“I think we showed great maturity throughout the game and there were some great team and individual performances. Ballymoney pushed us hard but in the end, with our performance, we did deserve the win.
“There were some areas we can work on, such as the penalty count against us, and we will be looking closely at that in training. It was a tense game but we are more than happy to take the win.”
In the game Coleraine took the first points after 10 minutes when Conor Simpson caught a delicate chip forward from Mikey Poskitt and scampered across the line for five points in an unconverted try. Within five minutes Ballymoney’s James Cleland slotted the ball over for three points from a penalty infringement. The next points also went to Coleraine on 25 minutes as Simpson again charged through the Ballymoney lines, evading the defence and scoring under the posts. Bokkie Carstens picked up the extras.
Coleraine kept the pressure on the home side and two penalty opportunities in four minutes saw Carstens claim three more points.
With 35 minutes on the clock it was captain Stephen Douglas who scored a great try, sprinting through the Ballymoney defence from the half way line. Carstens converted for another two points. As the half came to an end Cleland made sure of three points from a penalty on the Coleraine ten metre line to leave the half time score Ballymoney 6 – 22 Coleraine.
The second half saw Ballymoney resurgent and immediately on the attack. Three minutes in Cleland claimed three points from a penalty.
Seven minutes into the half and Ballymoney’s attack bore fruit when Matthew Blair forced his way over the line. The conversion hit the post.
Coleraine responded with a prolonged attacking phase, Brian Cochrane almost breaching the line but in the end a penalty relieved the pressure. The pressure continued but on each occasion Coleraine came close, they lost the chance through penalised offences in the loose.
Coleraine had a penalty opportunity after 25 minutes but Carstens hit the post and Ballymoney gathered the ball to begin a period of intense pressure on the Coleraine lines.
With half an hour gone Coleraine came under even greater pressure as Bernard Mullan was yellow carded and they went down to 14 men. Ballymoney capitalised immediately from the resultant penalty, Jonny Hanna being credited with the final touch as they rolled over the line. Cleland converted leaving the score at 21-22. Ballymoney launched wave after wave of attack and Coleraine had to pull out all the stops to thwart their efforts.
A probing chip towards the corner saw Coleraine just beat the Ballymoney attack to touch the ball down as it rolled over the line. Another Ballymoney attack came to nought with a slightly off target drop goal attempt. The attack continued and finally when Ballymoney yielded a penalty scrum from a knock on, Coleraine secured the ball and kicked it to touch as the final whistle blew.
The score Ballymoney 21 - 22 Coleraine means a bonus point for the Ballymoney men and four valuable league points for Coleraine.
Next up for Coleraine Firsts is a home fixture against Dungannon Seconds in the first round of the Junior Cup.
Also on Saturday Coleraine Seconds beat Carrick Seconds 16-8 in the league.
Coleraine Firsts: A Gaston (M Hunter), S Evans, A Teacy, W Chestnutt, D Ramage, B Mullan, S McLean, B Carstens, M Poskitt, A McAuley, S Patterson, C Simpson, N Blair, B Cochrane. Subs: M Hunter, T Van Wyk.