Braidmen beaten by Belvedere

BALLYMENA entertained Old Belvedere at Eaton Park on Saturday and were hopeful of winning and rising into the top half of the AIB Division 1B.

However the visitors stamped their authority on the game from the start and ran out winners by 26 points to 10.

After all the recent weather problems the pitch was in very good condition and allied to good weather conditions with little wind and a mild day, everybody was hopeful of an entertaining match and they were not to be disappointed.

Ballymena kicked off and for the first 10 minutes both sides had their fair share of possession but play was mainly in the middle of the pitch and at this stage of the game it could be said that the visitors were making less mistakes than Ballymena and were more positive in what they did.

The first indiscretion for Ballymena came in the 10th minute when they were penalised on the half way line but then somebody spoke out of turn and the referee advance the kick 10 metres which put it in range of the posts. Fortunately for Ballymena skipper Andy Dunne had a poor effort and was short.

This seemed to spur the visitors on and they appeared to up the tempo and got their reward in the 13th minute. After a period of sustained pressure near the Ballymena line flanker Richie Leyden got through a gap to score under the posts. This time Dunne made no mistake to put the visitors 7 points ahead.

Ballymena had their moments but made too many kicking and handling errors. Old Belvedere dominated the play for the rest of the half and just after the half hour went further ahead with another good try.

Belvo had Ballymena under pressure in their own 22 and after a few good phases of play they passed the ball along the line and who should be there but Richie Leyden. He made good ground before off-loading to Eoin O'Malley whgo scored under the posts to give Dunne another easy conversion and increase the lead to 14 points which was the half time score.

Ballymena were a bit more positive in the second half and took the game to Old Belvedere. Young Simon Ross, who had a quiet game at scrum half in the first half, was playing with a bit more confidence and was making inroads to the visitors defence and adding a new dimension to the Ballymena game. This was rubbing off on other players and consequently Ballymena had the upper hand.

After a good period of pressure in the visitors 22 Ballymena sent the ball along the line where full back Roger McBurney appeared and raced away to score in the corner but O'Hara was just wide with his conversion attempt.

Almost immediately the visitors came back. The home defence dithered in their own 22 and then an attempted clearance was charged down. Belvo got possession and quickly moved the ball along the line for Dave Mongan to score a try. Dunne hit the post with his conversion attempt.

The game settled down for a while with both sides having good possession but no clear cut chances but with time running out Ballymena took the game to the visitors. They were very positive and yet again after a good period of pressure in the Belvedere 22 O'Hara dummied and went through a gap to score but was just wide with his conversion.

Ballymena continued to press but in their eagerness to score a loose pass was intercepted by Andy Dunne. He was caught just before the line but had good support and the ball was moved quickly along the line where Richie Leyden was on hand to score his second try. Conal Keane converted to make the final score 26 points to 10 for the visitors.

This was a very good display by Ballymena in the second half but they were up against a very good side. The home back row had a very good game but were totally overshadowed by the opposition's back row with a man-of-the-match performance from number 6 Richie Leyden. He was superb in both defence and attack.

Ballymena: R McBurney; P Budina, K Moore, I Whitten, T Seymour; D O'Hara, S Ross (C Brigl 66); J Carson (A Ferguson 66), J Taggart (R Fisher 58), S Shawe, D O'Kane ( B Young 40), D Best (J Andrew 58), A Kerr, P Smith, S McKinney.