After 400 minutes of rugby, Ballymena finally opened their win account in this season's AIB League Division One on Saturday. Zimbabwean Dirkie Strydom was the catalyst, scoring 19 points.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, December 3
Ballymena 24 Blackrock College 19, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Dirkie Strydom, Peter Spence; Con: Strydom; Pens: Strydom 4
Blackrock: Try: Fionn Carr; Con: Paddy O'Toole; Pens: O'Toole 2, Byrne; Drop: O'Toole
The Braidmen lifted the gloom around Eaton Park by ending a four-game losing streak in the league. Thanks to Saturday's success and the postponement of the Dublin University v County Carlow fixture, Steph Nel's side now lie third-from-bottom after being rock bottom for the past few weeks.
The relief was very evident for the 2003 champions, but five words quickly brought Nel's men back down to earth - "we've got Shannon next week."
A 'Rock drop goal after only 27 seconds from fly-half Paddy O'Toole - the Dubliners' top scorer - meant Ballymena had to come from behind but first quarter tries from Strydom and scrum-half Peter Spence, both set up by Ulster fly-half Paddy Wallace, handed the home side a 15-3 buffer.
Two O'Toole penalties reduced the gap to 15-9 and, on 38 minutes, 'Rock moved a point clear thanks to a try from centre Fionn Carr, who was put clear after a neat kick catch and dart into space by winger Karl Gilligan.
O'Toole's conversion was cancelled out by Strydom's second penalty in injury-time as Ballymena took in the break with a slender 18-16 lead.
The nip-and-tuck nature of the game continued after the restart as 'Rock scrum-half Peter Byrne, with O'Toole off injured, banged over a penalty. Strydom replied on 52 minutes and added his fourth in injury-time to seal a vital win for Ballymena.
'Rock certainly had their chances to pull off a third win of the campaign - Byrrne missed a straight-on penalty on the hour mark, then missed for a second time and replacement fly-half Conor Sharpe was also wide with a drop goal attempt.
UL Bohemians 12 Garryowen 28, Thomond Park
Scorers: UL Bohs: Tries: Ian Hanley 2; Con: Ben Martin
Garryowen: Tries: Andrew Finn, Ciaran O'Boyle, Rob Henderson, Gerry Hurley; Cons: Conor Kilroy 4
High-flying Garryowen, benefitting from the presence of Munster and former Ireland international duo Rob Henderson and Paul Burke in their backline, shook off the attentions of their Limerick rivals UL Bohemians with a well-judged four-try display.
They were helped, in no uncertain terms, by the third-minute sending-off of Bohs flanker Aidan O'Gorman. Down to 14 men, the visitors put in a brave effort, typified by the strong running of left winger Ian Hanley, the scorer of their two tries. But it was always an uphill task for Mike Tewkesbury's side.
Full-back Andrew Finn and scrum-half Ciaran O'Boyle both scored early touchdowns before Hanley opened his account with a try on the half-hour to leave the students 14-7 down at half-time.
Garryowen lost their captain Peter Malone to a 28th-minute injury which saw the game held up for upwards of ten minutes, but the Sky Blues' hunt for a bonus point win continued unabated after the restart.
The impressive Henderson and replacement scrum-half Gerry Hurley sandwiched tries in to chalk up a fifth league win and second bonus point for Paul Cunningham's second-placed side. Left winger Conor Kilroy converted both for a neat eight-point haul. Hanley's second try, in between, was little more than a consolation.
UCD 41 Galwegians 12, Belfield
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Kevin Croke, Ken Kennedy, Cillian Willis, Michael Fanning, Brian Hall, Kevin McLaughlin; Cons: Killian Lett 4; Pen: Lett
Galwegians: Tries: Denis O'Brien, Barry Liddy; Con: Brendan Bartley
Typical that on a day when Galwegians get amongst the tries, they meet a UCD side in a rich vein of scoring form. The Belfield students ran amok on Saturday, scoring six tries in all to secure their third win - a result which moves them up to fourth and marks them out as Division One's top scorers (143 points) after five rounds.
Early tries from captain Kevin Croke and excellent centre Ken Kennedy, who came into the game having scored two tries in four league outings, pushed UCD in front, but 'Wegians snapped it back to 12-12 at half-time.
Prop Denis O'Brien and winger Barry Liddy, touching down for the second time this season, both crossed the home whitewash with full-back Brendan Bartley adding the extras to O'Brien's close range effort.
A penalty from fly-half Killian Lett, just minutes into the second half, restored UCD's advantage and College piled on the misery for four-from-bottom 'Wegians thereafter, scoring four further tries.
Their third and first of the second half had a degree of fortune about it - scrum-half Cillian Willis was sent clear after a charge-down. Then lock Brian Hall muscled over from five metres out, and Lett converted efforts from replacement full-back Michael Fanning and flanker Kevin McLaughlin in the final quarter to help UCD pass the 40-point barrier.