THE weather conditions during the week meant that Saturday’s friendly fixture between Sullivan Upper and Ballymena Academy was moved from Holywood to the Galgorm Road venue.
Following a 12–7 victory for Ballymena earlier in the month, two of the teams seeded to enter the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup at the 4th round stage played out another tight contest on Saturday morning.
With Duncan Maguire and Calvin Kernohan unavailable due to injury, Ballymena took the field with a reshuffled back row that saw Josh McIlroy pack down at number 8.
Sullivan started well and took the lead after 5 minutes with a Mark Adair penalty. Moments later, some excellent vision by Adair saw the ball moved wide into space for Sullivan to touch down in the corner.
The conversion was unsuccessful and the score remained 8–0 until Andrew Magrath slotted a penalty for the home team.
Ballymena continued to pressurise the Sullivan line and it was Magrath who was on hand to touch down following a Brian Mulholland chip. Magrath converted his own try to increase his team’s lead to 13–8 at half time.
The majority of the second half was dominated by Sullivan, who enjoyed a prolonged period of pressure deep in the Ballymena half. Another score in the corner, excellently converted by Adair, saw Sullivan regain the lead.
Moments later, Ballymena left too much space behind the defensive line and the Sullivan scrum half executed a deft chip which was gathered for a well-taken try. Adair’s conversion was unsuccessful but the lead had stretched to 20–13.
Ballymena replied quickly and Thomas Gaston showed pace to beat a couple of defenders before chipping the ball for Chris Blackwell to gather and score. Magrath narrowly missed the conversion and the away team held on to enjoy a 20–18 victory.
Ballymena Academy: Gaston, Reynolds, Magrath, Blackwell, Rosborough, Mulholland, Simpson; Stevenson, Spence, Kirk, Gillan, Barkley, Fowler, Patterson, McIlroy.