Paul McIntyre of Back of the Stand reports on the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship match between Ballymoney and Limavady.
Ballymoney survived an early scare to climb to second spot in Championship Two with what eventually proved to be a comfortable win over a Limavady side that lacked the intensity levels of their hosts. It was another frustrating afternoon for Mark Nicholl and his team. Already down loose head Clive Scott, tight head prop Rory Squires cried off late due to a hamstring injury. After 20 minutes it was clear to see why the Head Coach has been left pulling his hair out. A terrific opening was followed by an equally poor period when weak defence let the hosts in for two tries.
Played on a surface which may have suited the Belfast Giants, Limavady came roaring out of the blocks and attacked from the off. From a lineout Jack Elliott made the hard yards and from the next phase Peter Wilson put in Jamie Mo Millar for an early try. Out-half Wilson landed the conversion but missed one in the 9th minute as from another lineout Michael Rice touched down for another try. The Roesiders keeping the ball in the front eight for this one and driving over from five metres out. The form book was certainly being torn up by the Roesiders who have only recorded one win in the league so far.
The home side did come roaring back and launched an all out assault on the Roesiders. Persistent pressure eventually led to second row James Bleakly scoring before out-half Rory Strang took advantage of some weak tackling from the Limavady backline for the Toon’s second try. It got even better on the half hour mark. Irvine and Moxen continued to make inroads and full back Andrew Young played a delightful one two with Matthew Steele to score under the posts. Again Strang converted for a 19-12 lead and it was beginning to look like Ballymoney were going to run away with it.
Eventually Limavady got their hands on the ball and Wilson put in a great kick into the Ballymoney 22 to put the home team under some pressure. They did put the light blues under pressure and won a succession of penalties and eventually Referee Robbie McGreer binned home prop Ian Moxen. Limavady continued to turn down the chance to take the three points electing instead to tap and go each time, but each time they came up against a mean home defence, and after failing to find a way through, Ballymoney turned the ball over and referee McGreer blew for half time with Ballymoney leading 19-12.
Finishing strongly to the first half and a man up, Limavady would’ve been hoping to keep the pressure up and get back on the offensive but Ballymoney had other ideas. The re-start went deep into the Limavady 22 and a penalty was won after an infringement from a Limavady forward. This time it was Ballymoney who turned down the option of kicking for goal as they elected to go for a scrum, and after driving the Limavady pack back, captain John McFetridge touched down for the bonus point try.
The home side didn’t rest on their laurels and on 50 minutes scored their fifth try of the day. Matthew Blair was on hand to get in under the posts after more sustained pressure in the Limavady 22. Strang converted for a 33-12 lead.
To their credit, Limavady tried to force their way back into the game, but despite the best efforts of Stewart Roddy, Daniel Irvine, Sam Mackey and Alan Wilson, they came up against a very strong home defence that had learnt from their mistakes in the first 10 minutes. On 57 minutes Wilson tried to set centre Elliott away but Strang read the pass to intercept and sprint clear from his own half to score his second try in the corner.
The Limavady heads were down and with the final play of the game prop Blair crossed the line for his second try of the game. Strang brought his personal tally for the day to 20 points when he landed his fifth conversion and capped off a fine team performance for The Toon that sees them move up to second place in the league.
Ballymoney: Matthew Blair, Peter Irvine, Andy Brown, James Bleakly, Michael Allan, John McFetridge, David McKeeman, Daniel Ramage, Matthew Steele, Rory Strang, Matthew Bell, Martin Irwin, Aaron Brown, Neil Johnston, Andrew Young. Replacements: Ian Moxen, Andrew Stevenson.
Limavady: Alan Wilson, Adam Miller, John McCollum, Colin Henry, Michael Rice, Sam Mackey, Perry Semple, Daniel Irvine, Jamie Millar, Peter Wilson Capt, Stewart Roddy, Jamie Mo Millar, Jack Elliott, Jack Connor, Graham McAleese. Replacements: Luke Montgomery, Mike Cahill.
Referee: Robbie McGreer
In the only other game in Championship Two Larne suffered a rare home defeat as they went down 29-12 to Academy at The Glynn. The North Belfast outfit put in a tremendous display in the poor conditions to come away with a great bonus point win to see them go fourth in the table.
Only one one game survived the elements in Championship Three. Donaghadee made the long journey from North Down to County Donegal to face Letterkenny and just about came away with the win. 15-10 was the final score at Dave Gallagher Park in a game that could’ve gone either way. Letterkenny had their chances to win this one as their battle with Civil Service at the bottom of the table hots up.
Photo credit – Graham Service Photography