Rugby: Seconds pip Ballymena to the post

Banbridge Firsts had no match last weekend. INBL1446-266PB
Banbridge Firsts had no match last weekend. INBL1446-266PB

BALLYMENA SECONDS 13 BANBRIDGE SECONDS 16

With confidence having taken a knock after the previous weekend’s heavy defeat at Malone, Bann Seconds travelled to take on their Ballymena counterparts with some degree of trepidation. However a battling, composed display saw them come away from Eaton Park with another invaluable win under their belts, a result that sees them retain their third place in the Ulster Second XV League.

Bann started brightly and spent a lot of the opening exchanges deep in the Ballymena half. Clever kicking from Macauley Little and Shandon Scott kept the Braidmen under pressure and after 10 minutes a penalty from out-half Little gave Bann their first points of the game. After good restart work, strong ball carrying from Harry Cleland and Richie Graham saw the visitors back on the attack. The dominance of the Bann pack was obvious at scrum time and several penalties allowed play to stay in and around the home ‘22’.

It was that solid set piece which allowed Alan Conn to dive over for the opening try after 25 minutes, as the Ballymena pack, crumbling under the pressure, reversed over their own line at high speed. Little added the extra two points with the conversion to extend the lead to 0-10.

In the last 10 minutes of the half Ballymena scored an unconverted try through their fullback, and poor Bann discipline saw them concede a penalty which narrowed their interval lead to just two points.

The second half began well for the visitors and another Little penalty made it 8-13. With a considerable wind in their faces, Bann were finding it increasingly difficult to get out of their own half. Fifteen minutes in, and slick handling from the home team saw the full back go through for what looked a certain score, only to be hauled down two metres short of the line by Graham’s try saving tackle.

With 12 minutes remaining and after some heroic Bann defence Ballymena finally scored an unconverted try, to even the scores at 13-13.

The young Bann team however didn’t panic, made their way into the Ballymena half, and great direction and patience from Little, Neville Farr and scrum half Jason Gribbon saw them go through seven phases of play and come out with the reward of a penalty in front of the posts. Little slotted the kick with seven minutes left on the clock, and Bann defended their lead until the final whistle.

Coach Simon McKinstry was pleased with the victory. “We played well, hopefully the boys will gain a bit of confidence from this, as we have a couple of tough games in the next few weeks. We defended really well for nearly the whole second half. I’m pleased that when they came back to 13 all, we had the composure to get ourselves ahead again.”