Last-gasp penalty gives Ballymena narrow win

Ballymena prepare to recycle the ball during Saturday's match against Armagh at Eaon Park. INBT 51-925H
Ballymena prepare to recycle the ball during Saturday's match against Armagh at Eaon Park. INBT 51-925H

Ballymena Rugby Club First XV scored a last-gasp 21-19 win over Armagh in Saturday’s Ulster Championship League game.

It took an injury-time penalty from Richie McMaster to prevent the Braidmen from falling to a surprise defeat.

Armagh, despite their Division 2B status in the All Ireland League, soon showed that they were in no way daunted by their visit to Eaton Park , outplaying the home side for large parts of the game.

They enjoyed most of the possession and territory for the first fifteen minutes, and it was against the run of play when Ballymena took the lead with a Richie McMaster penalty.

That lead didn‘t last long, however, when a loose clearance fell into the arms of the Armagh full back, which gave their lively backs a chance to counter attack, and a good run by their right wing took the play to within ten metres of the Ballymena line and forced the home side to concede a penalty.

Armagh opted for the line out, and a well worked catch and drive saw their second row plunge over for a try far out on the right to give them a 5-3 lead.

McMaster restored Ballymena’s lead with a penalty on 22 minutes, a lead which was increased not long afterwards when a long line out drive brought them to the Armagh line.

It was Stephen Mulholland who got over for the touchdown for a try which McMaster converted to put Ballymena 13-5 ahead, which is how it stayed until half time.

Armagh were soon back in the game when after two minutes of the restart a brilliant individual try by Colvin and a conversion brought them to within one point of Ballymena, and was a fitting reward for the enterprise their backs had shown throughout the game.

Another excellent try, this time by Ballymena, saw the game swing their way.

It was initiated by Jordan Foster, who for about the first time in the game, found a bit of space and threaded his way through the Armagh defence. He found Matthew Rea in support, who made gground and transferred the ball to Adam McBurney.

He then threw a long pass to winger James Beattie who went in at the corner for a try which McMaster could not convert.

Ballymena’s lead was now 18-12, and the danger of a match winning try and conversion was always present as Armagh continued to press.

They missed an easy shot at goal and when Rea was yellow carded Ballymena faced a difficult twenty minutes, holding on to that slender lead.

With minutes left to go, out half Eden Manihera made a searing break through the heart of the Ballymena defence, getting to within metres of the Ballymena line.

The ball was recycled and Martin finished the movement off with a try which was converted to give his side what appeared to be a winning 19-18 score line.

Ballymena, showing that determination which has served them well all season, went on the attack and in the third minute of injury time won a penalty out on the left, some thirty five metres from the posts.

McMaster stepped up and confidently sent the ball between the posts to give Ballymena two point win, much to the relief of the home supporters.

AIL RESUMES

Ballymena coach Andy Graham will be looking for an improvement from his side as they resume their Ulster bank All-Ireland League Division 1B promotion bid this weekend with their last AIL game of 2014.

The Braidmen are on the road to Galway to face Corinthians - a side who they beat by 20 points to nil in the reverse fixture at Eaton Park.

A win would enable Ballymena to maintain their position at the top end of Division 1B, where they have already recorded seven wins from their nine games so far.