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Ballymena Overhaul ‘Quins In Exciting Ulster Derby

Ballymena Overhaul ‘Quins In Exciting Ulster Derby

Saturday’s much-anticipated Ulster derby at Deramore Park saw Ballymena outscore Belfast Harlequins by three tries to one on the way to a 22-14 success.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: BELFAST HARLEQUINS 14 BALLYMENA 22 (Imagemedia Films)

Belfast Harlequins started off the stronger team and got on the board quickly with a third minute penalty from centre Eamon Lane. Another breakdown infringement gave Lane the opportunity to increase the lead to six points in as many minutes.

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'Quins continued to control the opening quarter and once more were able to put another three points on the board, with Lane giving the home side a 9-0 advantage.

Ballymena responded well from the restart and won a penalty for sealing off. Out-half Tim Small, who went on to have an excellent game, made no mistake with his first kick of the day.

Small then missed an ambitious 45-metre penalty attempt before his own break almost put number 8 Mike McComish away as Ballymena started to make good use of their increased possession and territory.

A key moment in the match just before half-time saw Ballymena turn down a kickable penalty, instead opting for the corner and that decision paid off.

Despite getting turned over a few phases later, great work from David Shanahan put Harlequins under pressure clearing their lines and Clive Ross' charge down was pounced on by his back row colleague Stephen Mulholland for a converted try and a 10-9 interval lead.

Although experienced replacements Bryan Young and Ian Caldwell strengthened the Ballymena scrum, Harlequins went back in front early in the second half from a five-metre scrum.

Adam Larkin's men gained initial territory with some clever kicking from half-backs Mark Best and Roger Kirkwood. From the close-in scrum, number 8 Sean Reidy – the Irish-qualified New Zealander – made it over after a nice blindside set piece. The touchline conversion was missed by Lane.

Ballymena responded quickly, with their back row of Mulholland, Ross and McComish working hard to pressurise the Harlequins kickers.

A quick lineout by winger Jordan Foster saw Sean Taylor and Small go wide and make good ground in a sharp attack. Full-back Taylor was involved again a few phases later when he pounced on a loose ball and jinked through to set up quick ball for Small whose dummy and pace got the better of the defence to go over for a try which he converted himself for a 17-14 scoreline.

Harlequins gained decent momentum but their efforts went unrewarded as out-half Best missed a shot at the posts after the Ballymena scrum was penalised.

However, this finely balanced derby tie turned in Ballymena's favour thereafter as their scrum and maul really put 'Quins on the back foot. They turned down a couple of kickable penalties before blindside flanker Mulholland was held up over the try-line.

Referee Jonathan Peak soon lost his patience with Harlequins' repeated infringements as their openside Oliver Loughead saw yellow. Ballymena opted for a scrum and the ball was moved wide for Ulster's Ricky Andrew to put Small over for his second try.

Harlequins worked hard in the last 10 minutes to get back within reach of a losing bonus point, with good attacking runs from Andrew's provincial team-mate Michael Allen and lively scrum half Kirkwood, but Ballymena stood firm in defence and closed out the match to remain second in the Division 1B standings.

Referee: Jonathan Peak (IRFU)