Ballymena and Clontarf served up an absolutely magnificent game of rugby in the Division One final of the AIB League with Ballymena eventually winning 28-18
Ballymena and Clontarf served up an absolutely magnificent game of rugby in the Division One final of the AIB League with Ballymena eventually winning 28-18, having trailed 10-6 at half time.
The defining period of an enthralling contest came at the start of the second half when two Adam Larkin tries, one of which was converted by Paddy Wallace put the northern side into what looked an unassailable lead. However, Daire O’Shea landed a penalty to put them within a score of the leaders (20-13) and it was very much a case of, game on, again.
But cometh the moment, cometh the man and the man in question was the majestic James Topping who ran in as good a try as will be seen anywhere to seemingly put the outcome beyond doubt and stretch the Ballymena advantage to 12 points (25-13).
Clontarf to their great credit refused to buckle and they turned the game upside down with a try from Ollie Winchester with fifteen minutes left to play. Then they peppered the Ballymena line and looked to have tied it up when David Moore crashed over under the posts only for referee Alain Rolland to adjudge that Moore had made a double movement.
Ballymena had learned their lesson. They played the remainder of the game in the Tarf 22 and Larkin made it safe with a drop-goal in injury time.
Clontarf. D Hewitt; N O’Brien, D O’Shea, J Downey, O Winchester; A Dunne, R O’Reilly; W O’Kelly (capt), B Jackman, A Clarke, B Gissing, A Wood, D Quinn, D Moore, S O’Donnell.
Replacements: J Wickham, A Cullen, G Flynn, C Power, R O’Reilly, D Higgins, D McElligott.
Ballymena. P Wallace; J Topping, M Waterhouse, H Jones, S Young; A Larkin, P Spence; S McConnell, P Shields, B Young, M Blair, G Longwell, M McCullough, R Nelson (capt), N McMillen.
Replacements: I Campbell, N McKernan, D O’Kane, A Graham, A Monson, A Maxwell, D Topping.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU).