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Ballymena Bag Bonus Point In Limerick

Ballymena Bag Bonus Point In Limerick

This Division 1B clash at Annacotty came alive in the second half as a three-try blitz in a seven-minute spell pushed Ballymena out of sight and on their way to a 30-13 success.

Ballymena travelled to Munster for the third time this season to play UL Bohemians. It has been three seasons since the clubs last met.

Ballymena are currently holders of the Arthur Ferguson Memorial Cup, which the sides contest for, and Andrew Ferguson flew in from Manchester to make the presentation afterwards.

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With Paul Pritchard a late withdrawal, Willie McKay was drafted into the Ballymena starting line-up and given the honour of captaining the visitors.

Ballymena started briskly against the team with reputedly the best defensive record in the Division 1B this season. Despite several good phases of back-line moves, the Braidmen found that indeed they were up against a sound defence.

On their first visit to the Ballymena 22, Bohs created some good attacking moves of their own, and in doing so won a penalty with out-half JJ Hanrahan slotting over to give the home side the lead.

Ballymena came back at the hosts with Luke Marshall, returning from injury, looking particularly sharp along with half-backs Blane McIlroy and Martin Irwin providing quick ball to allow the line to move.

The game continued at pace and certainly entertained the spectators with its fast-flowing rugby from two enterprising young teams.

On the 30-minute mark with Ballymena creating most of the attacking moves but still finding no way through the stubborn Bohs defence, winger John Semple kicked an excellent drop goal from the halfway line to get the visitors off the mark.

Bohs attacked straight from the restart, putting pressure back on Ballymena and some excellent defence work by prop James Carson relieved the situation.

From the clearance kick, Semple followed up well only to be seemingly taken out when jumping for the ball, and although not seen by the referee, this seemed to spur Ballymena on. A very entertaining first half finished 3-3, with some discussion on the incident.

Ballymena started the second half by winning two quick penalties, the first pulled left of the posts but the second was good to give them the lead after 48 minutes.

An interception by the quick-thinking Ballymena backs was brought back for offside and Hanrahan's successful kick drew the teams level again on the hour mark.

Shortly afterwards, Bohs number 8 Sean Rennison was yellow carded for repeated offences at the breakdown. Ballymena did not let up and continued with attack after attack, eventually stretching ahead on the scoreboard.

The breakthrough came in the 65th minute. After a number of good runs, South African centre Richard Aingworth went over for the game's opening try with the visitors taking a 11-6 lead.

Two minutes later Josh Christie showed good pace to make 40 metres. The ball was recycled quickly and another good display of back-line handling and running saw full-back Ricky Andrew grab a try in the corner.

An excellent touchline conversion from Semple followed and two minutes later, the quick-thinking Alasdair Frazer picked up a loose ball and had the pace to beat the chasing defenders and scored his side's third try.

Bohs replied with a try of their own after a spell of pressure on the Ballymena line, with replacement Ben Martin dotting down. Hanrahan's successful conversion reduced the deficit to 23-13.

But Ballymena sealed the bonus point two minutes from time. UL were exposed by an excellent run from the recently-returned Roger McBurney. He made a full 50 metres and then linked with the supporting John Andrew who raced over for his first senior try.

Semple converted to push the winning margin out to 17 points and as well as taking the trophy home, John Andrews' side are now up to second in the Division 1B standings – just a single point behind leaders Ballynahinch, whom they host next Saturday.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)