A bitterly cold but sunny January afternoon could only mean the first round of the River Rock Towns Cup and JKC sponsored Ballymoney 1st XV entertained fellow Q2 side Larne RFC at the Kilraughts Road.
Ballymoney kicked off and it was Larne who were determined to test the Ballymoney defence right from the off. They were soon to take the lead when Ballymoney were penalised for going off their feet at a ruck giving the Larne kicker an easy kick at goal from just outside the 22.
The score was soon stretched further as the Larne centre intercepted a chip from Strang to run below the posts from the half way line. Conversion followed leaving Toon down 10-0 after 10 minutes.
This shocked the home side who finally started to string a few phases together and after good forward work in midfield, the ball was whipped out left to Marty Irwin who stepped inside the last defender to open the scoring for the home side. Cleland added the conversion.
Within 10 minutes, Ballymoney had doubled the scoring with an almost carbon copy of their first try with Irwin again cutting through the Larne defence to score below the posts, with Cleland adding the extras.
The Ballymoney pack were dominant at the scrum and lineout and were starting to stretch the Larne defence with Ramage and Irvine making big carries into the Larne half, and they further stretched their lead when David McKeeman scored. Cleland continued his fine form with the boot , taking the score to 21-10. Larne were to score from a penalty after Ballymoney were penalised for driving the away team off the ball at a scrum leaving the score 21-13 at half time.
The second half started with Ballymoney, although not playing at the same intensity as in previous weeks, controlling the game and were more than capable of dealing with everything the Larne team threw at them. With the superior fitness starting to show, Marty Irwin crossed the line, scoring a superb hat-trick, earning him the Man of the match award.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Ramage picked from a scrum in his own half and galloped down the line and with half the Larne defence hanging onto him, offloaded to winger Matthew Bell, who finished off his fine performance with the final try of the game, and with Cleland adding another two points.
The game finished 35-13 with The Toon progressing to the next round.
Speaking after the game, Coach Jonny Hanna was delighted to progress to round 2.
“After our run in the Junior Cup we were hoping for a decent run in the Towns Cup and we put in a very good performance today considering our training had been disrupted due to the bad weather over the last week,” he said.
“I thought the pack dominated and the backs looked dangerous on many occasions with Martin Irwin showing his class and hard work and was a deserved man of the match.
“Many thanks to all those who came out to support us today and hopefully we’ll get a favourable draw in the next round.”
Next week we’re back to league action with a difficult away trip to Academy .Hopefully the weather improves as we need to continue with the hard work on the training field.