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Schools Senior

Northern Bank Schools Cup: Friends 10 Ballymena 11

Friends School’s cup run ended in heartbreak in this quarter-final replay against Ballymena Academy. Leading 10 – 6 with time running out Friends were denied a trip to Ravenhill with a dramatic try from Ballymena’s No 8 Andrew with the final play of the match. Patterson missed the conversion from out wide but the kick was academic as the referee blew for the end of the match.

Ballymena now face Methody at Ravenhill in the Northern Bank Schools Cup semi-final match on Thursday afternoon, KO 2:30pm.

The first half was a tense affair as both teams struggled for consistency on a heavy pitch. Ballymena eventually got on top and roared on by a large crowd came close on several occasions with Simpson and Morrison featuring strongly only to be denied by handling errors and the strong Friends defence.

The Ballymena backs and forwards ran the ball more frequently than they had in their earlier meeting but the Friends front five put in a huge amount of work to deny them a try scoring chance, the only score of the first half being a penalty from Ballymena’s out half Patterson with the teams turning round 0 – 3.

Ballymena were quick off the mark at the start of the second and Patterson quickly added a second penalty to take the score to 0 – 6, but from this point on it was Friends who managed to take control of the game.

A penalty from Friends full back Lewsley got the Lisburn side back in the match taking the score to 3 – 6  and the home sides ascendancy was confirmed when Pringle dotted down in the corner after a powerful run from McGuigan. Lewsley added the conversion and Friends were now leading 10 – 6 with approximately 15 minutes remaining.

Friends continued to apply pressure and when the influential Ballymena full back was yellow carded for an extraordinary attack on Eastwood it looked like it would only be a matter of time before Friends would score again.

Ballymena had other ideas however and after a period of pressure in their own half they eventually managed to get a foothold in Friends’ territory as the match approached full time. With the last play of the game, out half Patterson cut back to the outside to wrong foot the Lisburn defence and, though he was brought down yards from the line, his pass found Andrew in space and the No 8 went over for the match winning score to give the visitors the match by 10 – 11.

Another thrilling encounter and credit to both sides for their performances over this series of games.

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