Friends and Ballyclare gave us another good old fashioned cup tie on Wednesday morning in Lisburn with Friends inching through to the quarter finals of the Schools Cup following a 24 – 22 win in a game that was a credit to both sides.
This one could have went either way at the death, but it didn’t look that way in the first half as Friends raced to a 14 – 0 lead thanks to tries from Kyle Gormley and Max Gillespie, both converted by Reece Malone.
Ballyclare had a try disallowed for a foot in touch shortly after Friends second score and they had to content themselves with a Mark Jackson penalty after a couple of misfiring lineouts when they were in dangerous positions.
Malone cancelled out Jackson’s penalty shortly after with a successful kick of his own to push the score along to 17 – 3 at the break, Ballyclare finishing the half with another disallowed effort being held up over the line in the final play.
It looked like Friends had wrapped up the game when Fergus McEwen crossed at the start of the second half, Malone converting, to push the score to 24 -3 but the Ballyclare boys staged a remarkable fightback, scoring three tries in the final 25 minutes.
Robert Reid was the first to cross, with Jackson converting to move the score to 24 – 10 and when Harry Beckington crashed over ten minutes later for an unconverted try the alarm bells started to ring for the home side.
Crucially Friends took precious minutes out of the game by getting back on the attack, but Ballyclare were determined to keep the momentum and they began to drive their way back down the field.
Kyle Ferguson battled over in the closing minutes for Jackson to convert, making it a two point game with about three minutes left. Both teams battled hard in the closing minutes for some form of sustained possession but, neither came out on top, the game ending without further score.
Heartbreak for Ballyclare amid the Friends celebrations.
Friends will now travel to RBAI for the quarter final.