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Determined Ballymena Win Kicking Battle With Bohs
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Determined Ballymena Win Kicking Battle With Bohs

Determined Ballymena Win Kicking Battle With Bohs

Defences were on top at Eaton Park on Saturday as Ballymena were made to work very hard for a 15-6 victory over UL Bohemians in a Division 1B game that was played in miserable weather conditions.

Ballymena v UL Bohemians from imagemediafilms on Vimeo.

At the end of a rain-swept encounter, Ballymena still retained second place in the Division 1B table, but it was a difficult struggle against a committed UL Bohemians team that started the day just one place above bottom side Belfast Harlequins.

The rain relented for the first part of the match, so both sides attempted to put some width on the ball, but neither could make any inroads against well-organised and determined defences. That was the story of the first half, and the only scores came from a series of penalties.

Ritchie McMaster opened the Ballymena account with a well-struck penalty after four minutes, awarded by referee Gary Conway when the Bohs scrum crumpled in the face of a concerted drive by the home pack, and that scrum superiority remained a feature of the home performance over the course of the afternoon.

There was not much between the sides in the opening period, with Ballymena enjoying a slight edge, so it was somewhat against the run of play when UL Bohs levelled with a terrific Rick McKenna penalty from 45 metres out.

On the half hour, another tremendous drive by the home pack forced Bohs to collapse a scrum and McMaster stepped up to land his second penalty, opening up a slender lead. Five minutes later, McKenna was on target for the second time to square things up at 6-all which is how it stayed up to half-time.

With the conditions deteriorating, both sides were finding it difficult to play constructive rugby, so it was hard to see where the next score might come from.

When it came, it was in the unlikely form of a left-footed drop goal from Martin Irwin which put the Braidmen back in front at 9-6. Ballymena's next points arrived once more via a scrum drive. The resulting penalty was converted this time by Andrew Magrath who had replaced McMaster at out-half.

The 12-6 lead was welcome, but a converted try would still have won the match for the visitors. The crucial two-score cushion was established when a Magrath penalty went wide and UL dropped out down the middle of the pitch. David Shanahan fielded the ball and passed to Rodger McBurney who dropped a brilliant goal from fully 45 metres, opening up a nine-point gap.

That seemed to spur Bohs on and for the next period of the game they dictated the play, to the extent that Ballymena had two players, Ross Kane and Stephen Mulholland, yellow carded. Now down to 13 men, Andy Graham's charges faced a real threat from a five-metre lineout, but Bohs spurned this opportunity with a crooked throw.

Although the six-man home scrum came under pressure, they still managed to clear the ball, but a missed kick to touch set Bohs on the attack again. Those defensive qualities that have seen Ballymena get out of many a tight spot again came to the fore, and the final assault was stemmed when Bohs gave away a penalty and conceded 40  metres with the relieving kick.

The Ballymena scrum, now up to seven players, reasserted its dominance and for the dying minutes Bohs were held in a vice-like grip inside their own 22, the game finishing with Ballymena back to full strength and able to see out a nine-point success.

Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Rodger McBurney; Jordan Foster, Callum Patterson, Martin Irwin, James Beattie; Ritchie McMaster, David Shanahan; Michael Lagan, James Taggart, Bronson Ross, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Clive Ross, Matthew Rea.

Replacements: Andrew Ferguson, Ross Kane, Michael Shiels, Andrew Magrath, Glenn Baillie.

Away Team

Joe Murray; Colin Ryan, Cian Aherne, Keith McManus, Rory White; Rick McKenna, Cathal Sheridan; Peter King, Phillip Dowling, Michael Lynch, Craig Irwin, Daragh Frawley, Noel Kinane, Ian Condell (capt), Brian Walsh.

Replacements: Joe Bennett, Joe Moloney, James Ryan, Craig Miller, Sam Sterling.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Pens: Ritchie McMaster 2, Andrew Magrath; Drops: Martin Irwin, Rodger McBurney

Away Team

Pens: Rick McKenna 2