Ballymoney 4ths 34 - 17 Banbridge 5ths
By Jimmy Speers
Ballymoney 4th XV cross the “Bridge” to the McCambley Cup Semi’s.
The River Ridge sponsored Ballymoney team, entertained their Co Down rivals Banbridge in the quarter final of the McCambley Cup on Saturday. The match proved a tight tense affair, until Ballymoney gradually took control in the second half with powering performance to record a deserved victory and progress to the semi-final of McCambley Cup.
It was a blustery afternoon as Ballymoney kicked off into a stiff wind. Banbridge winning the toss and choosing to play with the elements. After an even first quarter, Ballymoney opened the scoring. The Banbridge defence were caught flat footed as Ballymoney took a penalty and quickly changed the direction of pay. Front row forward Sam Bartlett powered over the line for the opening score. Banbridge fought their way into the game soon after and were rewarded after converting a long-range penalty. Ballymoney responded later in the half through centre and match captain Darren Smyth. Darren showing good support and awareness, when he collected an off load from Ryan Brace after lovely break from the fly half. Darren squeezing over despite the valiant efforts by the Banbridge defence. The final period of the first half saw Banbridge use the advantage of the elements to keep Ballymoney pinned back in their own half. The Ballymoney defence was resolute, led by Soupy, having an outstanding match at scrum half, defending like a backrow forward, relishing the challenge of the physical Banbridge pack and relieving the pressure when required. The final play of the first half saw Ballymoney fly half Ryan Brace extend the home sides lead with a sweetly struck penalty. Half time score, Ballymoney 13 Banbridge 3.
The second half saw the home side up the tempo and begin to dominate procession. It was just reward when centre Darren Smyth crossed the line for his second score of the match, beautifully side stepping at least four Banbridge defenders before touching down. Ballymoney continued to apply the pressure, patiently working through the phases. Banbridge, equally defending hard to keep their cup dream alive. Frustration crept into the Banbridge game as the second half progressed when a couple of their players were sin binned. Ballymoney kept calm and continued with their game plan, building phases and territory. The home team’s patience was justly rewarded with a score in the corner from winger Garry Pattison. Ballymoney pack continued their hard work and again put the visitors under pressure when they forced an infringement from the Banbridge back row for the referee to award a penalty. The ball was quickly fed to Aaron Ramage, the back row forward, who was having his usual dominant match, forced his way over the line for a fine score. Ryan Brace stepped up to slot over his over his third conversion of the second half. Ballymoney held out for the final few minutes as they retained procession of the ball to leave the final score 34 points to 3 in the Toons favour.
The Ballymoney Team manager Sam Speers was more than impressed with the performance and obviously delighted with the win. “It was a typical cup tie battle. Both sides were physically, some of the collisions were breath-taking. We played the territory and procession game in the second half and our patience paid off. It was a tight match and a good game for the spectators. We had a lot of very good individual performances, I though the forwards played very well. We can now look forward to the semi-final with enthusiasm”
The fours resume their Premier league campaign next Saturday, away to Belfast High Schools Former Pupils.