Ballymoney kicked off the new league campaign with a tricky away day to Academy , last season’s runners up . Ballymoney had several debutants on the day , Jack Murdoch starting in second row with Peter Dunlop at centre and John Laughlin at fullback making their first starts for the Toon .Ashley Tweed joined the returning Ian Moxen on the bench.
Ballymoney started strongly and were very unfortunate within the first minutes, a lineout take by Murdock was popped down to Steele who found Munnis who drove straight at the Academy defence but his pass went astray and the ball was knocked on with the line only feet away .
Following this a missed tackle in midfield gave the home no 8 to drive into the Toon half where he was tackled too high and the referee awarded the penalty , calmly converted by the Academy fly half, scored 3-0 after 5 minutes played.
Ballymoney had a high percentage of the possession in the first half however found it difficult to build a number of phases together with quite a few dropped balls or knock ons.
Ballymoney drove deep at Academy who were fortunate not to receive a yellow card after a number of infringements inside their own 22 .Ballymoney opted to take the scrum for the penalty on the 5m line however the Toon pack were penalised at the scrum giving the home side the opportunity to clear their lines.
Another penalty conceded by Ballymoney on 25 minutes gave the home side the opportunity to double their lead which they took into the half time break 6-0 Academy .
The second half was much the same pattern as the First, plenty of possession but unable to build phases and conceding too many penalties giving the Academy out half the chance to take the score to 12-0.
With Ballymoney working hard to get into the game Ian Moxen was yellow carded midway through the second half and with hooker Joel Heggarty going off earlier with a head injury meant the scrums went uncontested for a period .However, with the Toon down to 14, a quick break from the impressive Dunlop led to a penalty just outside the 22, a quick tap to no 8 Munnis where he powered through a number of tackles to score a fantastic try .Conversion missed, score now 12-5 .
Within minutes Academy stretched back in front again after another needless penalty was conceded.Ballymoney rallied and pushed deep into the home 22 and after another fantastic break by Dunlop he was hauled short of the line and at the resulting ruck a clash of heads between a Ballymoney forward and Academy player the referee had to stop the game as the home player appeared to suffer a nasty head injury .The game had to be stopped for quite a while as an ambulance had to be called .Thankfully the injury was less serious than thought and we wish him a speedy recovery .
The game then had to be moved to another pitch in order to see out the remaining 10 minutes as medical staff attended to the injured player but again a number of penalties conceded gave the home side the chance to run down the clock and hold out for the victory with the game finishing 15-5.
Afterwards coach James Cleland said “ although the Ballymoney defence was very strong and Academy never looked like scoring a try , we were disappointed with the number of penalties conceded, in both halves of the field , giving Academy the opportunity to clear their lines and also to score the 5 penalties which ultimately won them the game. We also struggled to put continuity into our game and too many unforced errors crept in .These are things which can be corrected by working hard in training and we aim to do that this week before another difficult trip away to Randalstown this Saturday.”