Ballymoney Firsts progressed in the Towns Cup floowing their 20-6 win over Lisburn on Saturday.
Speaking after the game coach James Cleland told Times Sport: “Last week we put ourselves under pressure to get the win as it was a critical game in our aim to win the league.
“This week although we may have had a nervous first few minutes the guys seemed much more relaxed and this actually allowed them to be more physical and organised in defence. Defence was the main objective today as last year Lisburn had put over 50 points on Ballymoney in two games, but this year we seem to be much hungrier in defence and more together as a team.
“However it wouldn’t be fair to say that we only defended as we did score three very good trys and had one disallowed and two more great chances which shows we can take these larger teams on. We weren’t perfect however and need to work on our discipline and some of our set piece at training as we continue to look to improve.
“We have now a very difficult task in going to Letterkenny on Saturday which is never an easy place to go. There is a bus going for supporters and anyone looking to travel to support the team should contact the club or Chris McIlmoyle to book a place.
The support on Saturday was incredible and all the squad really appreciate the turnout on the side lines and the encouragement from the supporters.
“Congratulations also to the Seconds who beat CIYMS.”
The game kicked off and Ballymoney looked to be showing some signs of nerves. The first phases of the game saw both teams jockey for procession. Lisburn took advantage of these early nerves and caught Ballymoney somewhat flat footed, allowing some of their big runners to break the defensive line but only either for their final pass to be dropped or Ballymoney scrambled defence to cover at the right time they should of scored a try.
Fifteen minutes in pressure from Ballymoney allowed them to get on the score board first. From advantage from the maul Ballymoney moved the ball out the back line, which saw Andy Young loop round to make the overlap on the wing to take a pass and make a break down the touch line.
The Lisburn fullback came across to cover but the Toon 10 sold him an outrageous dummy to create space and race in to score in the corner. Andy missed his own conversion but Ballymoney had a 5-0 lead.
Soon after Ballymoney again set up an excellent maul from the lineout and a Lisburn infringement brought about a penalty. Young converted to make it 8-0.
Continued issues from last week’s game seemed to crop up tagain as the increased intensity in defence resulted in some penalties at the ruck which gave Lisburn a chance to gain easy procession into the Ballymoney half. However Ballymoney were able to repel any attack with some impressive defence from the Toon back row of McKeeman, Allen and McFetridge, along with backs Watson, Brown, Nevin and Cleland.
This aggressive defence either caused the turnover or a knock on and with Ballymoney lineout and scrum in ascendancy play was able to be taken back into the Lisburn half.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining, another penalty allowed Lisburn to kick deep into the 22 and set up the maul from the lineout. Again Ballymoney defence stayed firm and repelled wave after wave of attack with again McFetridge and McKeeman at the fore to notch up turnovers allowing Ballymoney to clear the danger bringing the half to a close.
Lisburn came out energised and regained the kickoff and applied pressure but this time due to growing confidence in the Ballymoney defence they were not able to make any inroads into the Ballymoney half. However they did have some rewards with their fullback converting a penalty after only five minutes played.
This raised the level of intensity again from the home team and with their first real phases of procession they moved deep into the Lisburn half and through some direct running in open play and a very effective maul from the lineout Ballymoney moved close to the try line.
The ball was being moved, stretching the visitors defence and an attack down the blind side saw second row Mullholland take the ball into contact, but he showed his power as he was able to free his arms and floated a perfect offload to Young who again followed play to find himself out wide to score his second try in the corner. Again the difficult conversion went just wide.
With a 13-3 lead Ballymoney started to grow again in confidence and the only chance Lisburn had of points was a long range penalty to close the gap to 13-6. A turnover in midfield and some quick hands saw outhalf Young break the line. With Cleland and Mullholland on his shoulder he couldn’t find the pass and Lisburn were able to stop what looked a certain try.
It wasn’t long until Ballymoney were in try range again. This time a scrum five metres out after Lisburn were forced to kick dead set up a huge drive from the lighter Ballymoney pack. Great work again from front row of Irvine, McAneaney and Brown took the scrum over the line and number 8 McFetridge crashed over for what everyone thought was a try, however the referee called the home team back as he had blew up for the penalty before the try had been scored.
With the penalty below the posts Ballymoney opted for the scrum as they now felt they had the advantage over the tiring Lisburn pack. This time a wheel in the scrum meant McFetridge had to pick early and was stopped on try line. Some composed play allowed the ball to move through the forwards and then when space was created it was spun out the back line for centre Steele to go over in the corner. The difficult conversion was added for Ballymoney now to lead 20-6 with 15 minutes left.
McCord came on for Brown and Millar came on for injured captain McFetridge. Ballymoney played the remainder of the game close to Lisburn try line not letting the visitors have any chance to get back into the game.
In the dying minutes Ballymoney should have added further to their try tally. Again good handling saw the ball moved back across the pitch and prop McCord showed his pace and he split the defence and drove over the try line only for Lisburn cover tackles to drive him over the dead ball line for the referee to blow for the end of the game.
Man of the Match: Andy Young