THERE was disappointment for Coleraine Inst in the Northern Bank Schools Subsidiary Shield final at Ravenhill last week.
The Castlerock Road outfit let slip a 19-10 advantage against Ballymena Academy, with the boys from the Braid eventually running out 36-19 winners in front of a large crowd.
With two of the top schools in Ulster pitted against each other, the predictions that the main subsidiary event would provide a better final than the Schools' Cup were backed up with an open game of rugby and plenty of tries.
Both teams brought plenty of support which made for a wonderful Ravenhill atmosphere.
Coleraine, who were put out at the first hurdle by eventual Schools' Cup winners MCB, began adventurously and were rewarded after three minutes when outhalf, Richie McMaster, struck a penalty well for a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes later Coleraine No 8 and captain, Angus Warwicker, caused chaos in the opposition ranks with a superb break deep into Ballymena territory. He was stopped by a well organised Ballymena defence and unfortunately for Coleraine, a player strayed offside at the ensuing ruck, and a golden opportunity was lost.
Ballymena, who went down to Campbell College in their first Cup game, had a well organised defence and Luke Marshall was called upon, more than once, in the early exchanges to bring his considerable defensive skills to help rescue his team.
However, after 12 minutes the inevitable happened. Impressive Coleraine scrum-half, Jason Bloomfield, scythed his way through the opposition defence to touch down for an excellent try. Richie Mc Master added the points and the Coleraine team was now controlling the game with a 10-0 lead.
This proved to be a wake up call for the Braid Boys who took the game deep into Coleraine territory. The Coleraine defence worked hard to keep the Ballymena attack at bay. Marshall, Andrew Warwick and Peter Marshall were all involved as their team surged forward.
Eventually, the Coleraine defence was breached when, after 18 minutes play, Luke Marshall crossed the Coleraine line for a try following good work from his pack and scrum half James Andrew. Luke converted his try to reduce the deficit to 10-7.
Ballymena continued to apply the pressure and on 30 minutes had a wonderful opportunity to score when Warwick found himself in possession with a three man overlap. Fortunately for Coleraine, Warwick decided to go for the line himself and was tackled.
Play now switched into the Ballymena half and McMaster was just short with a penalty attempt prior to half time. However, in injury time he made up for his previous miss when he converted a penalty to give the men from Coleraine a 13-7 interval lead.
McMaster and Marshall exchanged penalties to make it 16-10, before McMaster's 43rd minute penalty gave Coleraine breathing space again at 19-10.
Once again, Ballymena took full advantage of Coleraine indecision at the restart. Marshall got possession and scorched through the defence. His pace, power and awareness enabled him to find fellow centre Kyle Moore who did not need any encouragement to finish off the move for a try. Marshall added the points to leave the score at 19-17 in favour of Coleraine AI.
The Ballymena tails were up and two minutes later a super pass from Ballymena captain, Ross McQueen, found the expectant hands of Charlie Simpson, playing in the unaccustomed position of left wing. Simpson's dancing feet allowed him to cut inside the despairing Coleraine defence and touch down for a try which was the culmination of good work involving his pack and fellow backs. Marshall added the points and the Academy team was now in the lead for the first time in the game by 24-19.
Then Warwick atoned for his earlier mistake when he finished off an enterprising Ballymena move to score an excellent try. Marshall again added the conversion to put Ballymena Academy 31-19 ahead.
In injury time, George Dennison scored an unconverted try following a well worked lineout move leaving the Ballymena team as deserved winners of a most enjoyable game featuring two very fine schools teams.
Coleraine led for a considerable amount of the game but in Luke Marshall, Ballymena had the "Man of the Match" and the essential difference between the two teams.
Coleraine AI: C Gaston, M Lowe, M Griffiths, D Rankin, M Mc Dowell, R Mc Master, J Bloomfield, A Warwicker (Capt), J Cromie, M Shiels, J Christie, C Mc Laughlin, D Dorsett, D Ferguson, A Asghar.
Replacements: A Dorrans, T Kerr, C Kerr, A Gourley, P Farrell, R Thompson, P O' Hara
Ballymena Academy: R Mc Queen (Capt) R Wilson, K Moore, L Marshall, C Simpson, C Morrison, J Andrew, P Wallace, M Harkness, G Dennison, M Shannon, D Whann, A Warwick, K Galloway, G Gracey
Replacements: S Brown, P Taylor, R Mc Connell, P Banda, O Millar, C Delpy, C Williams
Referee: C Wilson