Ballymena outscored Dublin University by five tries to four at Eaton Park on Saturday afternoon as they secured their third successive win in Ulster Bank League Division 1B.
Returning from their runners-up finish at the World Universities Rugby Cup in Oxford, the Trinity students put in a brave effort and late tries from influential backs Paddy Lavelle and Tim Maupin gave them a deserved try-scoring bonus point.
Ballymena kicked off in perfect conditions and scored what must be the quickest try of the season, putting five points on the board inside just 24 seconds.
Dublin University failed to deal with the kick-off and the ball bounced up into the hands of David Whann who moved it immediately to Matthew Rea who made ground and released the ball to the backs. The slick handling, which has been a feature of Ballymena's game, created space for centre Callum Patterson to score an unconverted try out wide on the left.
That setback seemed to energise Trinity because for the next 15 minutes they enjoyed almost complete control of the ball and mounted a series of attacks on the home line. The other strong feature of Ballymena's game has been a stubborn defence and it held out again against some determined running by both backs and forwards.
If they were disappointed at having conceded an early try, Trinity must have been furious when Ballymena hooker John Andrew intercepted a pass and ran 50 metres to score a try which was very much against the run of play at that stage. Ritchie McMaster failed to convert from wide out on the left, but he kicked a 28th minute penalty to give his side a 13-point lead.
Ballymena went further ahead when they were awarded a penalty and opted to kick for the corner. Second row Whann made a great catch and the pack set up the drive which Trinity could not stem, the try coming when flanker Connor Smyth peeled off the back of the maul and brushed aside the last of the defence to cross halfway out on the right, leaving out-half McMaster with a fairly straight forward conversion.
Ballymena appeared to be coasting with a 20-point advantage, but they were served a sharp reminder of Trinity's attacking potential when scrum half Angus Lloyd took a quick tap from a penalty and scored a very fine individual try which was not converted. That reduced the arrears to 20-5 which was how it stayed up to half-time.
The second half began with the Ballymena pack getting the better of the exchanges, setting a number of attacks which Trinity were having difficulty in dealing with. Their attempts to stop the opposition resulted in a 46th minute yellow card for lock Raef Tyrrell, and Ballymena were quick to take advantage with a try by winger James Beattie (pictured below) in the right corner after good work by the pack.
The conversion was missed, but that hardly mattered as the Braidmen had already picked up the bonus point and were enjoying a comfortable lead, which McMaster added to with a second penalty for 28-5.
But once again they were reminded of the threat that Trinity posed. A clean break in midfield sent full-back Conor Kearns in at the posts for a try which he converted himself.
The home side responded to this in the best possible way by scoring a try almost straight from the restart which, for the second time in the game, Trinity failed to control. Ballymena seized on the loose ball, moved it quickly and full-back Rodger McBurney came into the line a speed to score a trademark try which centre Kieran Joyce, making an impressive debut, converted.
With the score now at 35-12 and ten minutes to go, it was effectively game over. Yet, Trinity rallied in impressive fashion by running in two excellent tries through Lavelle and Maupin, one of which was converted for an 11-point difference in the end.
Referee: Karol Collins (IRFU)