Second-placed Ballymena secured their fourth Division 1B victory on the trot by edging out UL Bohemians 30-23 on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Unbeaten Ballymena made the long journey to Limerick with a squad shorn of Ulster-tied players and were also missing centre Callum Patterson, out of action with a broken arm sustained in the Dublin University game.
But, as it turned out, Andy Graham's faith in the overall strength of his squad was more than justified, as his charges turned in a really gutsy performance to beat UL Bohemians on their own ground, and bring home a try-scoring bonus point.
So, after the first run of four Division 1B games, the Braidmen sit second in the table, just a point behind fellow promoted side Galwegians. The table toppers will meet in Galway on Saturday, November 1.
Ballymena opened the scoring at Thomond with a textbook try, a Mark Foster-won lineout seeing possession transferred to the backs. Sean Taylor and Martin Irwin were involved initially before Paddy James made the running to put winger James Beattie clear and he outpaced the defence to go over in the corner.
UL Bohs responded with a try of their own, centre Rory White cleaning up a loose pass to the backs outside the 22 and he rounded the immediate cover and used his strength to break through the middle and crash over by the posts. Shane Airey's conversion split the sides at 7-5.
An exchange of penalties – one from home out-half Airey and two from his opposite number Ritchie McMaster – saw Ballymena go in at the break with a slender 11-10 advantage.
Bohs went back in front thanks to an Airey penalty but the Ulster side owned much of the third quarter, running in three tries on the bounce in the 50th, 57th and 68th minutes.
An attempted clearance by UL was charged down by Irwin, who was the first to react, beating the defence to the touchdown and putting his side 16-13 to the good.
Ballymena's third try of the afternoon was instigated by a series of forward drives, carried on by centre James who switched the direction of play and sent winger Jordan Foster clean through the middle to score a seven-pointer.
An Airey penalty was Bohs' only response during this purple patch for Graham's well-drilled outfit, who held onto their lead despite losing two players to the sin-bin.
The visitors registered their bonus point when man-of-the-match McMaster put in a lovely floated kick which Irwin claimed in the air, coming down on the other side of the two contesting Bohs players. He accelerated away for a try which McMaster converted.
Now 30-16 behind, Bohs battled on and their efforts were reward with a losing bonus point. The pack took the game to the bigger Ballymena unit, inching up to the try-line and prop Vinny O'Regan was on hand to dive over with Airey converting.
McMaster missed a penalty attempt as Ballymena had to endure what head coach Graham termed 'a nervy finish' before being confirmed as 30-23 victors. Excellent lock Connor Smyth ripped the ball from a Bohs lineout jumper to allow McMaster to boot the final kick to touch.
Referee: Barrie O'Connell (IRFU)