This semi final clash between the top two teams in Championship Division 1, both well ahead of their nearest rivals, would offer a tasty chance for league and cup double.
I’ve seen both teams play exciting rugby mixing their set pieces with fast open running so I was expecting a great game and that’s exactly what we got.
Report and images courtesy of Richard Owens.
Nearly every weekend it’s blowing a gale and today was no exception at the Cloughan. Dromore were kicking off into the wind but within minutes Ballyclare were pushing Dromore up against their line. Attempting an exit with a box kick and chase Dromore managed to turn the ball over and win a penalty which was reversed after some handbags, so instead of being well down the pitch they found themselves defending a line out which evolved into a maul which made it to try line but was held up.
Dromore looked to have the upper hand from the scrum, shoving Ballyclare backwards and I think the pack believed a penalty was due but no whistle was blown and captain Dave Clark at number 8 picked the ball up from his toes and charged to the line to get Ballyclare’s first try on nine minutes. Conversion missed from Matthew McDowell as the ball ricocheted off the post.
Dromore then enjoyed a dominant period and, following a succession of controlled phases, Josh Pentland slipped past his opposite number before delivering the pass for the wing Brian McClearn to run in to even up the score on the 22nd minute. Again the extras were not added in the difficult conditions.
Ballyclare had an opportunity to squeeze ahead with a shot at goal but the ball sailed wide.
The wind and rain picked up and Dromore struggled get out of their own half. Ballyclare applied further pressure turning down another chance of a penalty shot at the posts in favour an attacking line out. A well executed catch and maul and hooker Matthew Coulter tumbled over for try number 2. Conversion missed.
Ballyclare weren’t done with the half yet and with Dromore rattled they fashioned another attack leading to a carbon copy third try from a line out maul. The place kicker was having a torrid time as he failed in his third attempt to add two more points. Half time 15-5.
I wasn’t convinced a ten point lead would be sufficient to see Ballyclare into the final and when Dromore scored their second try seven minutes into the second half through a series of forward drives, finally ending up with the hooker Frazer Mulholland touching down beside the posts, and with the extras added the match burst wide open.
The next score would be critical and it came from the home team who patiently worked upfield against the wind to get their fourth try. At last the Ballyclare kicker hit his mark and the gap went back to 10 points.
Dromore battled back and were close to going over again but committed defending from the home team was good enough to see them over the line and into the final.
Fittingly it was Front Row Union man of the match Dave Clark who booted the ball off the park to the delight of the home fans. A great game of rugby between two classy teams. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the league as second place Dromore have a game in hand which if won will see then leapfrog Ballyclare in the race for the title
Post match interview with Dave Clark below.