The Queen’s Arena, Upper Malone, was the venue for this year’s Medallion Shield Final between Ballymena Academy and Campbell College.
Conditions were challenging. A strong cold wind blew straight down the pitch, which coupled with driving rain and wind chill, sucked heat out of the players. Numb hands and stiff limbs made ball handling exacting, throughout the afternoon.
Playing with the wind Ballymena sought to assert themselves but were held back by a resolute Campbell defence for almost 20 minutes.
Campbell were content to hold on to possession and move slowly up the pitch frustrating Ballymena and running the clock down. They didn’t risk kicking into the wind, instead opting for scrums, rather than touch finding kicks from penalties.
On probably the first occasion that Campbell really moved the ball wide they made progress through the middle and when play was held up short of the line, Callum McKinney drove over to open the scoring. Henry Ralston added the points for a 7 – 0 Campbell lead.
Ballymena swept back up the pitch from kick off, driving forward from rucks and mauls. When it looked as though Charlie Hargy would be held up, he crashed over in the corner for an unconverted try.
In the last minute of the 1st half Ralston retrieved a pass, caught in the wind, which wrong footed the Ballymena defence, and set off on a solo run to score an unconverted try and leave Campbell 12 – 5 to the good at halftime.
Ballymena turned round after the break facing the wind and rain.
Ralston kicked a 30 metre penalty goal, a couple of minutes into the half to keep the scoreboard ticking over at 15 – 5.
Ballymena found it hard to establish any territory and on 41 minutes Ed Thomas found space on the right to dive over in the corner for an unconverted try and a 20 – 5 Campbell lead.
Though camped inside the Ballymena half, Campbell were beaten back by a strong defence. With a few minutes to go Campbell elected to kick for goal, when awarded a penalty 25 metres out. Ralston was successful with the kick to move Campbell out to 23 – 5.
Because of how they played the elements, Campbell deserved their Medallion Shield victory over a very brave Ballymena side.
Pictures by Bob Given and Richard Owens