Ballymena made a flying start to their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League 1B campaign with a 20-0 win over Corinthians at Eaton Park.
Corinthians, who had finished third in the Division last season were relying on their bigger, heavier forwards to dominate, but they were no match for a determined and well organised home pack. For the first fifteen minutes they exerted some pressure, but the Ballymena pack, with the back row of Ross, Mulholland and McComish outstanding, soon began to exert control. The Corinthians’ scrum was in all kinds of trouble, frequently incurring the displeasure of the referee, and the lineout ball they won was not put to any great use by the midfield, who found themselves up against a resolute Ballymena defence,
Twenty minutes into the game the deadlock was broken, when from a scrum Shanahan released McComish who made a great break on the narrow side, found Shanahan in support on the outside, and the scrum half raced forty metres to the line, leaving the Corinthians cover for dead. McMaster converted, to put Ballymena 7-0 ahead.
The first half scoring was completed following a period of pressure by Ballymena and after a number of controlled phases following a great run by Connor Smyth the ball was moved wide to McComish who sent Adrian Kilpatrick in for the second try of the game. McMaster’s conversion failed, so the teams went into the half time break with Ballymena 12-0 to the good.
The second half continued to be dominated by Ballymena, and it was Corinthians turn to defend, which they did to great effect, denying Ballymena on a number of occasions. The home side’s lead was comfortable enough, as Corinthians continued to fritter away possession and spill ball at crucial times, but a McMaster penalty with ten minutes to go settled the home supporters’ nerves. In the dying minutes of the game, a penalty to Ballymena let them set up a rolling maul, which McComish cleverly orchestrated from the back. As the maul drove to the Corinthians’ line, McComish broke from the rear of the maul, fed Shanahan who crossed for his second try. That made the score 20-0, and that’s how it finished.
Ballymena coach Andy Graham was obviously delighted after the game, and praised the performances of McComish and Shanahan, adding that the great defensive performance and the control at half back were the key factors in the victory.