Ballyclare victory keeps promotion dream alive
BALLYCLARE kept their slim promotion hopes alive with a convincing win against Belfast High School Former Pupils.
Despite overnight snow, the pitch at Greenisland was in surprisingly good condition for this Qualifying League Section 2 fixture. FP officials had worked hard during the morning to clear the lines, and although a blanket of snow covered the playing area, there was no indication of frost underneath.
The slippery ball made handling conditions difficult for both teams, but Colly Morrow's men coped better, to run in four scores without reply in a 31-0 rout.
This really was a top v bottom clash, with Ballyclare firm favourites to deliver, and by half-time it was all over bar the 24 points ahead.
Coach Robin Byers had to make several enforced changes, with winger Gary Weatherup having to move inside to partner James Jackson in the centre, with Stevie Morrow, back from injury, taking over the vacant spot on the wing.
In the absence of Paul Morrow and Ian Russell, Gareth Byers and John McDonald continued at full back and fly-half respectively in a much changed back division.
Up front, Graham McKinstry and Darren Beggs formed a new partnership in the second row, with Darren Montgomery making a return at prop, but despite these changes the 'Clare men were in command, after taking an early lead from a penalty straight in front by Jackson.
Five minutes later, skipper Morrow increased the lead when he went in for a score following a blind side break in which he linked effectively with Byers.
Stevie Morrow nosed his side further ahead when the backs made ground, with Byers joining the line to create an overlap for Morrow to dive over in the corner.
The home side found difficulty in getting out of their own territory, so it came as no surprise when Weatherup got his name on the card; a turnover in the Ballyclare half caught out the home defence, and following a penetrating run, Weatherup neatly stepped inside his marker for a fine individual score.
Jackson converted all three touchdowns to make the half time score 24-0.
The second half proved to be quite a physical battle, with each side having a player red-carded following a punch-up, and at one stage Ballyclare were reduced to 13 men when McKinstry spent ten minutes in the sin bin.
The only score of the second session was by Byers, who successfully chased down a kick-ahead by McDonald from the edge of the 22 and Jackson extended his one hundred per cent kicking record by converting, to take his tally to eleven points.
The Man of the Match award was shared by hooker Noel Smith and lock Darren Beggs.
Ballyclare: Byers; McKnight, Jackson, Weatherup, S Morrow; McDonald, C Morrow (C); Henderson, Smith, Montgomery, Beggs, McKinstry, Coburn, Moore, Logan.
The matches involving the 2nd and 4th XVs were postponed because of the adverse weather conditions in Clogher and Ballyclare, but there is a full programme for this weekend.
Fixtures: 1st XV v Londonderry YMCA ,away, (provisional); 2nd XV v Armagh II, home; 3rd v Lisburn II, home; 4th XV v Academy III, home.