Late Neal Mulholland try means Ballymoney snatch victory from jaws of defeat against Cooke

MATT FINISH. Ballymoney's Matthew Pollock evades the challenge from his Coleraine opponent on Saturday. Picture by Sammy McMullan.INBM4-14 029SC.MATT FINISH. Ballymoney's Matthew Pollock evades the challenge from his Coleraine opponent on Saturday. Picture by Sammy McMullan.INBM4-14 029SC.
MATT FINISH. Ballymoney's Matthew Pollock evades the challenge from his Coleraine opponent on Saturday. Picture by Sammy McMullan.INBM4-14 029SC.

Neal Mulholland’s try in the last play of the game snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Ballymoney.

Ballymoney travelled to Cooke looking to return to wining ways after two disappointing results. A competitive training run on Tuesday opened the door for a few changes in the side; Neal Mulholland and David Campbell coming in for Adrian Graham and Danny Platt. James Campbell and Ben Henderson swapped positions in midfield, and out wide Chris Morrison made his debut after impressing through the lower teams.

On a miserable day in Belfast, both sides found quality rugby difficult to maintain. A Cooke penalty on 15 minutes for killing the ball was converted, then a try on 27 minutes took it to 8-0.

But there was a bit more fight in the team, and Campbell converted a second penalty attempt just before half time to leave it 8-3.

In the second half Ballymoney looked to use the forwards more and on 50 minutes Jonny Hanna got on the scoreboard for the 9th time this year from a short range scrum. Campbell converted for a 8-10 lead.

Six minutes later, Cooke were back in front - a penalty converted for 11-10. With the final quarter playing out in an attritional battle, Cooke further extended their lead to 14-10 on 75 minutes and it all looked to be lost once again for Ballymoney.

But the Toon launched one final assault, retaining the ball well through the phases until Mulholland found a mismatch on the blind side and Skelton put him over for the winning try with the final play of the game. Final score 14-15 and Mulholland also picked up the Man of the Match award after the game.

* Next week sees the start of the Towns Cup - Ballymoney have been drawn at home to Strabane and will be looking to build on this week’s result and get back to the performances that the team knows they can produce.

* Ballymoney 2nds 13 Coleraine 2nds 10

Ballymoney hosted Coleraine 2nd XV in the Junior league encounter, knowing that they had to win to maintain distance from the relegation battle.

With the 1st XV making a few changes, the 2s could choose from a shuffled deck, and the forwards in particular had a strength that has not always been there this season.

Danny Platt and Andy Gardiner came in for Mulholland and Allan in the second row, and in the back row Andy Surgenour and John Richmond were looking to get some more game time under their belts after a disrupted season so far. And in the front row Andy Brown was rewarded for some strong showings in the 3rds.

The forward pack would prove to be the difference in this game - the cold rain and wind meant that handling was tough in the back line. Indeed from the start Coleraine served notice that they would scrap for every loose ball with a dogged determination that upset any rhythm Ballymoney could put together.

The first try of the match came from Coleraine - some good ball retention and strong running burst in midfield allowed them to burst through a disorganised defensive line for the opening score.

At this point Coleraine were looking the more cohesive unit, having more success at the breakdown, where they were clearly fired up. Coleraine were also on top in the lineout, putting pressure on Montgomery’s throwing every time. This allowed their fly-half to kick at will, mixing chips with clearing kicks to keep the defenders guessing.

Ballymoney’s pack, however, started to use their strength to get a foothold in the game, causing turnovers of their own and even stealing a scrum against the head.

And it was the pack that got the first try, a well executed catch and drive from a lineout just inside the 22 allowed Surgenour to break from the maul and crash over in the corner.

The second try came 15 minutes later - a carbon copy of the first, with Coleraine having no match for the well organised maul from the lineout, and Callum Macdonald emerged with the ball this time for the try that drew the scores level at 10-10.

John Richmond was unlucky to see a yellow card for a cover tackle that slipped up to the collar of the winger - but the referee had stated his case already to captain Smyth, and stuck to his word.

With both kickers finding it difficult, Nathanial Steele eventually found a steady footing to knock over a penalty with 10 minutes to go. That would prove to be the winning points as both teams pushed hard but could not break through again.

Full credit goes to the pack this week, with Danny Platt having an outstanding game in both defence and attack. John Richmond carried an immense amount of ball, making yards every time, and Andy Gardiner was everywhere in attack and defence. Credit must also go to Andy Brown who stepped back into the second team like he had never been away.

After the game, the In Touch cameras were rolling. Captain Smyth was pleased to get a tough win over the local rivals, and coach Shields called out the performance of the pack in particular in getting the result.

The 2s have no game next week, but will be hard at work in training preparing for the trip to Clogher Valley in the Crawford Cup on the 1st of February.

In Touch rugby were also there taking photos and videos - take a look?

* The 4th XV lost 18-0 to Holywood 2s - the match ended early with a neck injury for Leon Beattie but the club is pleased to share that it is not serious, and he is expected to recover fully in the next few weeks.

* Ballymoney U17 XV Perform Well in Cup Game

Report by Uel McDowell

Ballymoney RFC U17s 7 Ballymena RFC U17s 20

Beaten but not outplayed.

On Saturday 18 January Ballymoney RFC Under 17s played their first match since mid-December, taking on Ballymena RFC of the Premier Division in the Youth Cup Competition.

Ballymena went in 10-0 to the good at half-time. The second half commenced with Ballymoney pinning their opponents inside their 22 and with excellent long kicking by Young and Pattison, they kept constant pressure on the Ballymena line.This enabled William Parkhill to score an excellent try following sterling work by the Ballymoney pack of forwards. Andrew Young converted. Game on 10-7 to Ballymena.

From the restart some sloppy play handed Ballymena another unconverted try when their winger was allowed to score by cutting inside the Ballymoney covering defence.

The Ballymoney players’ heads did not drop and they worked hard trying to get back into the game but with only 14 men the inevitable was going to happen and Ballymena scored a good fourth unconverted try in the corner when their backs ran the ball on the blindside.

For the last few minutes it was all Ballymoney, with the forwards surging towards the Ballymena line and only strong defending and last ditch tackling prevented the Under 17s from scoring. The final whistle went with Ballymena winning by 20-7.

This was an excellent performance by all of the fourteen players who refused to be cowed by their formidable Premier Division opponents. Newcomer Matthew McConaghy had a sound game in the second row and will be an asset in the future. It was difficult to pick an individual man of the match but in the end Alan McBurney, Nathanial McCollum and Captain Ben Graham shared this accolade.