Timely boost for Braidmen

BALLYMENA had a rearranged senior league game against Ards at Eaton Park on Saturday and ran out easy winners by 57 points to 13.

For Ballymena this match seemed to be a continuation of last week's nightmare against Dungannon. In the first half Ards were the superior side and at half time deservedly led by 13 points to 12.

The second half saw a complete transformation in the Ballymena play and they scored seven tries in a superb display of attacking rugby.

Even the most ardent home supporter would not have expected such a display but the team was just brilliant in their handling, running and support of each other.

Ards started the better and took the game to Ballymena. They had the chance of an early lead when the home side were penalised in the middle of their own half but Michael Lawton was wide of the mark.

Ards were still controlling the game bur Ballymena were coming into the match in fits and starts and forced the visitors back into their 22 but a hurried clearance found touch in the middle of their half. Ballymena won the ensuing line-out and moved the ball out quickly. Peter Budina joined the line and, spotting a gap, he accelerated away to score a fine try which Rory Drysdale converted.

Instead of building on this Ballymena seemed to be content and handed the initiative back to the visitors who were quite happy to come back at Ballymena. Ards were on the attack and running well when Scott Young chipped over the top and won the race for the touchdown. Michael Lawton converted to level the scores.

After this play became very scrappy with neither side really dominating the game. There were lots of mistakes, bad decisions and aimless kicking before Ballymena gave away another penalty on their own 10 metre line. Lawton made no mistake this time to make the score 10 points to seven for Ards.

With half-time approaching Ballymena were awarded a kickable penalty but they opted for the corner. They won the ball from the line-out and drove the Ards pack over their own line before Ross Hackney touched down to give Ballymena the lead.

There was still enough time left for Ballymena to give away another penalty which Lawton converted to make the half time score 13 points to 12 for the visitors.

Ards kicked off in the second half and Ballymena got possession. They moved the ball quickly and were soon deep into the Ards half. Ards knocked on and Ballymena got possession from the scrum. After a couple of phases Jimmy Carson made a great break and passed to the supporting Budina who touched down in the corner. Rory Drysdale converted with a superb kick from near the touch line.

Ballymena were now on the ascendancy and they continued to play superbly with both forwards and backs supporting and helping each other. This was a totally different performance to the first half and the poor Ards players could only stand and watch as try after try was racked up against them.

Tries were scored by Darrell O'Kane, Sam McKinney, Alan Smyth, Chris Brigl, Andy Kerr and Steven Castle. Rory Drysdale had a superb afternoon with his kicking and racked up a total of 14 points.

This was just the kind of performance Ballymena needed to give them a boost before next week’s important final AIB AIL match away to Ballynahinch. A repeat performance of Saturday’s wonderful display of 15 man rugby will stave off any threat of relegation.

Ballymena: P Budina; R McBurney, S Castle, A Frazer, A Smyth; R Drysdale, G Fisher; J Carson, R Fisher, A Ferguson, D O’Kane, B Young, A Kerr, R Hackney, S McKinney.