Ballymoney post solid win over Portadown
By Andy Borthwick
Fans pleased with an excellent display from the Toon
Narrowly avoiding the horizontal snowstorm, Ballymoney kicked off against Portadown looking to return to the form that ran Clogher and Bangor close, and took the win over Donaghadee.
With Jason Taggart lacing up his new boots for another run, the team were expecting to be held to account for their own performances, after last week’s poor showing in the derby.
And the reaction was very positive from the outset, with strong running from the forwards, coming onto the ball at pace and varying the point of attack. The backline were in dangerous form as well, with Chris Watson looking more like the attacking threat of old, and Jamesy Campbell putting his stamp on the game from fly half.
The solid attacking platform was complemented by a sturdy defensive line – the lively Portadown back line got no change through midfield or wider channels. All of that led to a steady stream of possession for the home side in the opening quarter.
It was not all Ballymoney though, with a line break through the midfield making 30m for Portadown’s first foray into the Ballymoney half. But more sturdy defence on the 22m kept the visitors at bay.
From one such Portadown attack, a turnover in midfield allowed quick hands to put ryan Brace up the touchline. As with last week, he attempted the chip over the last defender, this time landing it perfectly in his hands at pace to race into the 22. With the cover defence chasing, Brace drew in the man and release Chris Watson for an excellent try at the clubhouse end. Jamesy Campbell converted for a 7-0 lead on 25 minutes.
The half continued in much the same manner, with plenty of possession from the home side, and some glimpses of real threat from the visitors, but the half finished with no further scoring.
In the second half, with both sides using substitutes, little quarter was given either way. With the slight wind advantage now coming Portadown’s way, Ballymoney were working hard to keep the game in the attacking end.
A penalty converted by Campbell after an hour gave a hint of breathing room, and then a few minutes later, the killer blow was landed. After good driving play around the fringes, Neal Mulholland took a wider ball and looked to step through the midfield. As the defenders closed, John Laughlin arrived on a perfect line and pace to crash through 30m out. With a swerve and dive for the line, a fine second try was complete, and with the conversion good, Ballymoney led 17-0 with 15 minutes remaining.
The last quarter saw the visitors push hard for a score, but the dogged Ballymoney defence stood firm. A minor disagreement saw a yellow card produced, and effectively nullified the forward threat. But Ballymoney could not add to the scoreboard, leaving it 17-0 at the finish.
A fine performance this week, and just rewards for a match in which the visitors rarely threatened. When backs and forwards are mixing up the attack it makes life much harder for the defence, and keeping possession was key to nullifying their threats out wide.
With news rolling in that 9th placed Donaghadee picked up a bonus point at home to Clogher Valley, the two sides are now level on 10 points apiece, and with Cooke 4 points ahead, another couple of wins would see Ballymoney climb to a safer 8th position.
Next up is Bangor, away from home – a side that just edged the first contest at Kilraughts Road, and who will be looking to position themselves to attack the top four. The 2nd XV are at home to Malone 3s, and Ballymoney 3s are also at home, to Ballymena’s 4th XV. All kick-offs are 2:30.