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Ballymena Triumph In Seven-Try Thriller

Ballymena Triumph In Seven-Try Thriller

Buoyant Ballymena made it two bonus point wins on the trot by overcoming Galwegians 32-19 on home turf in Ulster Bank League Division 1B.

They bagged their second try-scoring bonus point of the campaign thanks to touchdowns from Alasdair Frazer, John Semple, Stephen Mulholland and Ricky Andrew, with winger Semple also kicking 12 points.

After dominating this fixture for many years, Ballymena had not beaten visitors Galwegians in the last four of their meetings.

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The match was preceded with a minute's silence as a mark of respect to the sad passing of long-time Galwegians club member and official Sean Healy.

The game itself got off to a lively start with Galwegians applying early pressure and winning a couple of penalties in the Ballymena 22.

They elected to scrummage on each occasion and their big pack certainly looked to have the edge in this area. After the second of these scrums, they mauled towards the Ballymena line and lock Brian McClearn went over for the opening score, stunning the home crowd.

Out-half Tadhg Leader, son of Galwegians President Noel Leader, converted to give the Connacht men an encouraging seven-point lead.

Ballymena responded with some good phases which resulted in winger Frazer doing very well to score in the corner. Semple converted with a superb effort from the touchline, levelling the sides after 10 action-packed minutes.

Both teams had subsequent attacks with some good line kicking from Martin Irwin keeping the home pack moving forward.

However, Galwegians responded and a knock on in the Ballymena 22 led to an attacking scrum. They moved the ball wide and were denied a second try by an excellent covering tackle from Paul Pritchard in the corner, taking man and ball into touch.

Both teams found the conditions difficult with a number of errors, however it was Ballymena who managed better and took the lead in the 26th minute with a Semple penalty.

'Wegians responded with some cohesive driving play and won three penalties in quick succession, opting for a line kick with the first and then kicking for goal with the other two. Both attempts were missed.

They continued to press and Ballymena's South African centre Richard Aingworth pounced on a spilled pass to kick and chase almost to the visitors' line, only for Galwegians to regain the ball.

But their clearance gave Ballymena a lineout on the five-metre line. Good possession followed by three phases led to a try out wide for Semple who converted with another excellent kick from the touchline, giving Ballymena a 17-7 buffer at half-time.

'Wegians started the second half with purpose, yet some good defending from the Ballymena midfield of Aingworth and Alan Smyth prevented any progress.

The Braidmen attacked again, moving the ball across the back-line and full-back Ricky Andrew broke through in the 53rd minute to run 40 metres and score a superb try in the corner. The conversion was short but Ballymena were now 22-7 to the good.

The Galway side hit back swiftly, making their way back up to the Ballymena line and after a number of phases they created an overlap out wide which led to a try from prop Jamie Stephens. Leader was successful with the conversion to reduce the margin to eight points.

Good pressure from Ballymena led to a scrum and then a penalty which Semple, who was having a great game, converted to extend the advantage to 25-14.

Once again Galwegians came back at Ballymena in tigerish fashion and advanced to the home side's try-line with a number of pick and go moves.

Despite some good defence, Connacht scrum half David Moore was able to squeeze over for a 70th minute try. The conversion was wide however and just with 10 minutes left, both teams were chasing the win and the try-scoring bonus point.

It was Ballymena who achieved both feats in the end. From a late ruck, their number 8 Mulholland did well to come over the top and stretch for the line to score the match- winning try and gain the bonus point.

Semple, who is only recently back from a broken leg, converted to make it 32-19 and finish with a personal tally of 17 points.

Referee: Barrie O'Connell (IRFU)