At Kilraughts Road on Saturday, JKC BMW sponsored Ballymoney 1st XV got back to winning ways with an emphatic victory against fellow newly promoted PSNI by a score line of 56-0.
With back to back defeats in the league for the first time in two seasons, the Kilraughts Road men knew they had to get the league campaign back on track but knew that the Police would be no pushovers after a tough match in December at Newforge Lane.
PSNI kicked off playing towards the clubhouse and went immediately on the attack , but the Ballymoney defence was up to the challenge and soon they were on the attack. From a Toon scrum on halfway, Cleland make a fantastic break releasing Nathaniel Steele only for the ball to be spilled. From the resulting scrum clearance the backs moved the ball wide left deep into the 22, where the pack built up the phases, sucking in the away defence, leading to a penalty. A quick tap saw the ball moved right where Nathaniel Steele powered over for the score with Strang converting.
The home side were looking at every opportunity to stretch the larger PSNI team around the park as much as possible as they knew this would tire them out. Fifteen minutes in, a loose pass from PSNI was pounced on by Lewis Wray, giving possession back to the Toon, where the rumbled built phase after phase before Nealers Mulholland drove over below the posts, again converted by Rory Strang.
Try three was soon to follow from a quick tap taken inside the home 22, the ball was moved out to the right hand touch line, then a quick snap back released Andrew Young on the left wing who drew the opposition fullback and fed the supporting Strang to score a fantastic team try, with Rory converting his own try leaving the half time score 21-0.
The second half started as the first finished, with the home team well in the ascendency. The fourth and bonus point try was the pick of the game. PSNI tried to attack from deep but Marty Irwin made the tackle ,quickly getting to his feet and counter rucked, securing the turn over, two big carries up the middle from the pack and the ball was released out the backs, again with Irwin putting a deft chip over the defence giving the fullback all kinds of problems with Andrew Young on hand to score in the corner, with Strang again continuing his fine form converting from the touchline.
Rory Strang soon was on the score sheet again , from a kick to corner, the pack pressing hard, stretching the away defence, leaving Strang the chance to dance through the police defence untackled to score below the posts, again converting his own try.
With the PSNI buckled, Ballymoney scored three further tries through Andrew Young (2) and Andrew Stevenson, with Rory Strang finishing the day with 100% record with the boot, converting all eight tries to leave it Ballymoney 56 PSNI 0.
The Coaching team were delighted with the result and Jonny Hanna saidafter the game: “The last few weeks have been difficult for us but we knew we had to bounce back to winning ways, so it was imperative that this started today.
“We were still missing a few players through injury and unavailability but that is why it is important the whole squad works their socks off and takes their opportunity when they get it. I thought our intensity today was top drawer, even in the warm up our concentration and handling was exlemplery.
“Even though the PSNI were a much heavier pack, we dominated the set piece and the breakdown and I was particularly impressed with the amount of ball Lewis Wray turned over at the breakdown. Kenny McAneaney‘s lineout throwing was first class and I felt young Andrew Stevenson had a terrific game at no 8, making numerous big carries. It was also great to see David Holmes back after such a long time injured.
“In the backs it is great to see Nathaniel back and I cannot forget Andrew Young, scoring a hat trick and Rory too giving a 100% kicking return. I believe today shows how far we have come from last season where we only narrowly beat PSNI 17-11 here in Q3. Another big plus today was our penalty count, only conceding four penalties all day.
“Next week we take a break from league action and travel to Ards in the Towns Cup, where they’ll be looking to avenge the league defeat earlier on in the season. We need to kick on from today’s result, put in a hard week at training and lift our game to a higher level if we want to progress in the Cup.”
The River Ridge Recycling backed Ballmoney fourths maintained their spot at the summit of the regional Northern league with another dominating victory away to City of Derry thirds, claiming maximum league points on the way.
The good weather conditions, saw Ballymoney out-score their opponents by six tries to four, with a breath taking display of open, fast rugby. City of Derry could not live with the tempo this improving Ballymoney side played the game.
Try scorers were tight head prop Sam Bartlett with three, centres Chris Clarke and Andy Bothwick one each and Neil Campbell completing the scoring. Try of the match which came from Sam Bartlett.
The tight head forward collected his own box kick and jinked his way through the City of Derry defence line to score an excellent individual try. Neil Johnston converting four of the scores.
Team captain John Waide commented after the match: “I am extremely pleased with our performance; we played some nice rugby today, with our finishing again clinical. It is great to see the team delivering a performance like that. Each team member played their part. The forwards dominated procession and set the platform as they continually presented the half backs with fast, clean ball.
“We did let in a few scores at the very end, however at that stage we had only 12 fit players on the field, so I am pleased with the character we showed in defence and held on for the win.”
The man of the match award has to go to Sam Bartlett. The prop forward bossed the game both in the scrum and loose play. Sam was rewarded, bagging a hat-trick of tries for his efforts.