Ballymena Rugby Club youth round-up: Gutsy display from under-17s

DESPITE four yellow cards, which bemused the travelling Ballymena support, Ballymena under-17s showed why they are top of the league with their never say die attitude in a 12-12 draw with Ballynahinch.

The 17s came out and stunned the home team when Mattison returned the kick off some 30 metres before being brought down deep into Ballynahinch territory.

Some excellent play saw the boys deep in their opponents’ ‘22’ with only a knock on and some soft penalties relieving the pressure for the home team.

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However the 17s regained the ball and a well worked move saw Kerr release Mackness who was brought down just short of the line. Thompson then hit the line at pace collecting the ball before driving past two tacklers to score in the corner. McNeill slotted home a difficult conversion and the 17s were deservedly infront.

Ballynahinch, joint league leaders tried to come back but some excellent tacklng from Jennings and Hunter kept them at bay.The boys then suffered their first yellow card with the impressive Gilkinson carded for giving away two penalties in a row. The decision seemed to spur the boys on and they refused to let Hinch in before the break.

The second half saw more of the same with another Ballymena player sin binned for pulling a player into a ruck. Ballynahinch made full use of the two extra men crossing in the corner for a score.

Back to full compliment the 17s showed their class with a flowing move involving George and Millar. They combined to release Jennings whose clever pass to McKillan allowed him to crash over in the corner.

The 17s had their noses in front again and Bell showed strong nerve at full back catching and returning a series of long kicks. However two more yellow cards saw the boys pushed deep into their half.

With over eight minutes of injury time on the clock Getty appeared to have stopped the Hinch onslaught but the lack of numbers was going to tell and with extra minutes on the clock the home team eventually scored.

The conversion was the last play of the game but the Braid boys could hold their heads high refusing to let give in.

UNDER-19

Ballymena Under 19s hosted unbeaten Ballynahinch at the weekend in what was always going to be a difficult fixture.

With the team back together after an enforced break they were strengthened with the inclusion of the talented Jose Abrantes and Jack Fleming who had been released by the senior squad for the day.

From the outset the boys showed why so much effort had been put into getting them back on the pitch. Leading from the front captain Bamber led a strong drive deep into the Ballynahinch half.

Despite the size of the opposition pack the Braid boys took control with McLoughlin and Lindsay working hard in the loose to take the game to the visitors. However despite dominating play the 19s were unlucky when an intercepted pass saw Hinch break away to touch down under the post.

Given the troubles of the last few months it would have been easy for the 19s to drop their heads. However spurred on by big tackles from Kieran and Curtis Bowes, the boys were securing good ball and a strong run saw Abrantes release the returning Clements who gratefully crossed for his first try for the 19s.

Ballynahinch again went up the field and scored which just seemed to spur the boys on to work harder. A strong forward drive saw McCooke held up just short of the line. However quick thinking from prop Johnston saw him lift the loose ball shrug off two tacklers before driving strongly over the line for a well deserved score.

The 19s were now firmly on top and just before the break a flowing move instigated by Fleming saw out half Appleton release Bowes his pass to O’Connor saw the flying full back cross in the corner.

The second half was a tight affair with the 19s backs through the Mulholland brothers Jonny and Jason taking the game to their opponents.

A seemingly harsh decision saw the impressive Abrantes yellow carded for side entry to a ruck. Hinch made the most of the extra man and scored from the penalty. The 19s now lost out half Appleton to injury. McKay came into scrum half and the boys fought their way back into the game. With Currie and Hyndeman driving strongly in mid field the ball moved to the improving Millar his run and pass saw Abrantes drift past several defenders before touching down under the posts.

With only minutes left it looked like the 19s would secure a deserved victory. However Hinch were awarded a penalty in the Ballymena ‘22’. They tapped and ran but the 19s were penalised for not retreating. Despite being inside the five metre line Hinch were again allowed to tap and go to cross for the winning score.

The 19s however can take great credit from the game which they dominated for large periods. The 19s are now firmly back on the road and looking forward to the rest of the season. Final Score - Ballymena 22, Ballynahinch 26.