Ballymena U-16S 29 Bann U-16S 14
After opening their league campaign with a comprehensive win over Randalstown, Bann’s Under-16 side travelled to meet much tougher opposition at Ballymena.
They eventually had to concede defeat to a bigger side, but not before they had shown great qualities of spirit and resilience, battling back after conceding three first half tries to reduce the deficit to 17-14.
It looked ominous in the opening 18 minutes as the home side ran in three tries, converting one and generally dominating the exchanges. Bann’s plight worsened with the loss of out-half John Buller through injury five minutes later.
But with Ben Smith coming off the bench and a re-shuffling of the ranks Bann began to find their feet. Smith and flanker Thomas Gracey carried well to set up a score for Jack Myles, with the latter taking over the kicking role in his out-half’s absence and landing the testing conversion.
Spurred on by that success Bann began the second half in lively fashion, putting the home defence under pressure from the re-start. From a ruck close to the line prop Andrew Jardine forced his way over, just reward for a player who had caught the eye throughout the first half with his tackling and all-round work-rate. Again Myles did the trick with the boot to leave Ballymena just three points ahead.
But the home side were far from a spent force and they created an overlap down the left flank just eight minutes later to score a fourth try. With Bann trying hard to get back into the game it was unfortunate that a midfield pass was intercepted just inside the home half, leaving the Ballymena centre with a clear run to the line. The conversion left Bann 15 points in arrears with just ten minutes remaining and though they battled to the end they were unable to eat into the deficit.
Nevertheless they will take great encouragement from this display against a side which will challenge strongly for the Ulster League title this season. Skipper Alistair McDowell again led by example and in the backs the strong tackling of Haydn Kerr did much to contain a lively Ballymena threequarter line.