Ballyclare take maximum points again

Ballyclare RFC consolidated their position at the top of Kukri Championship League Division 1 with a bonus point win away to league newcomers, Grosvenor RFC.
Ballyclare break through the Grosvenor line. PICTURE: John McMurtry - The Front Row UnionBallyclare break through the Grosvenor line. PICTURE: John McMurtry - The Front Row Union
Ballyclare break through the Grosvenor line. PICTURE: John McMurtry - The Front Row Union

The home side succumbed to their first league defeat since 31St December 2016, having won Division Two with 18 straight wins last season.

Coach McKeever had to reshuffle his pack again welcoming the returning from injury Robert Boyd, Dean Jones and Stewart Cusick into the starting 15.

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Ballyclare kicked off and were soon inside the Grosvenor 22. Michael Kirk progressed down the left wing as Ballyclare surged into the Grosvenor red zone. At the breakdown the ball was quickly moved right, finding Joel McBride, who ran in, wide right for the opening score. Robbie Reid converted. 0-7

When Grosvenor were awarded a penalty, just inside the Ballyclare half, from the restart they elected to have a kick at goal, the ball rebounding off the right upright to stay out and was cleared to touch by Reid. From the resulting lineout, Grosvenor retained possession well, progressing towards the Ballyclare try line. Fast recycling and committed rucking saw the home side cross the line in the left hand corner for their opening score, the conversion was pushed wide. 5-7

On 20 minutes, Grosvenor took the lead with a penalty to go 8-7 in front, and 5 mins later missed another long range attempt. Ballyclare were forcing much of the play in the Grosvenor half, with the home side committed in their defending. From an attacking line out on the edge of the Grosvenor 22, Ballyclare moved the ball at pace out the backs. Gary Clotworthy hit a great line from full back to power over for Ballyclare’s second try wide right again. Reid’s conversion gave Ballyclare an 8-14 lead at half time.

Ballyclare increased their lead early in the second half. Progressing inside the Grosvenor 22, Reid flashed a miss pass out to left wing Michael Kirk who finished well in the left corner. The conversion attempt was just wide. 8-19

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Following another period of sustained pressure, inside the Grosvenor half, the referee yellow carded a Grosvenor player for slowing the play at a ruck. Robbie Reid kicked the resulting penalty to edge Ballyclare further in front. 8-22

Ballyclare regrouped from the restart and went on the hunt for the valuable bonus point, fourth try which was scored by replacement full back Matthew Johnstone who finished another sweeping back line move wide left. Reid was again successful with the conversion. In a loose final 10 mins of the game Grosvenor hit back with a converted score before Joel McBride intercepted a pass inside the Grosvenor 22 to score Ballyclare’s fifth try of the afternoon. Grosvenor never gave up and scored a consolation third try under the posts in the last play of the game. The full time whistle sounding as the conversion went over. Full time Grosvenor 22 Ballyclare 34

Ballyclare’s next fixture is at home next week, 13th October, when Cooke are the visitors.

At The Cloughan the 2nd XV and 5th XV lost out to more experienced opposition in Dungannon 2nd XV and Ballymoney 4th XV respectively. The 4th XV had a hard fought 19-18 win away at Academy 2nd XV. The Fours points scores were Stephen Bailie with two tries, Andy Crowe got one. John Wasson kicked two conversions.

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