Rugby coach praises ‘huge’ performance in narrow defeat

Tom Wiggins (Chairman, Ballymena Rugby Club); Guy McCullough (President, Ballymena Rugby Club); John Milstead (GM, Michelin); and Derek Montgomery (Vice Chairman, Ballymena Rugby Club) pictured at the club's sponsors' dinner at Gilies Bar and Grill.
Tom Wiggins (Chairman, Ballymena Rugby Club); Guy McCullough (President, Ballymena Rugby Club); John Milstead (GM, Michelin); and Derek Montgomery (Vice Chairman, Ballymena Rugby Club) pictured at the club's sponsors' dinner at Gilies Bar and Grill.

Ballymena Rugby Club head coach Andy Graham hailed his players’ performance as they almost pulled off a surprise opening day Ulster Senior League win at Ballynahinch.

The Braidmen went down 12-9 at Ballymacairn Park in their first competitive fixture of the campaign.

The score suggest a close run contest, as indeed it was, with Ballynahinch only securing the winning score with three minutes left on the clock.

Coach Graham was naturally disappointed for his players, but declared himself pleased with what he called “a huge performance” by all sixteen players who took the field.

ഀBallymena kicked off with a slight breeze behind them and for long periods of the first half not only contained the Division 1A side, but took the game to them.

The wind began to strengthen and Richie McMaster was able to take advantage of it, kicking a penalty to give his side a 3-0 lead.

In one of the rare sorties by the ‘Hinch into the Ballymena half, a defensive mistake allowed them to break clear, with ex Ballymena player Roger McBurney going in for a blind side try which was not converted.

It was McMaster who succeeded with two long penalty attempts to restore the visitors’ lead, putting them in front by 9-5 at the break.

Ballymena were now facing the elements, which were now making conditions difficult, with rain and a blustery wind, and the home side used them to put pressure on Ballymena, driving them back in a series of mauls.

This led to a succession of penalties as the Hinch tried to drive Ballymena over, and from one of these mauls Glenn Baillie was yellow carded for coming in the side in an attempt to halt it.

This led to increased pressure on the visiting pack, but with Chris Smyth doing sterling work in driving the opposition back, the Hinch had nothing to show for their second half supremacy.

No 8 James Gallaher also put in a great shift, relieving pressure with some great runs from the back of the scrum.

With Baillie back on the field, Ballymena came more and more into the game, and were unlucky not to score.

From one of these periods of pressure, the Hinch broke out and another defensive lapse allowed their scrum half to break clear and run in 35 metres for a try.

That try was converted to make the score 12-9 with only three minutes left on the clock, but it was Ballymena who finished the game on the attack.

They forced a penalty, and took the decision to kick at goal, but McMaster’s kick from the touchline into the wind missed narrowly.

SPONSORS’ NIGHT

Meanehile, Galgorm Resort and Spa played host to the Ballymena Rugby Clubs sponsors’ dinner in Gillies Bar and Grill recently.

It was an opportunity for the Club’s sponsors to join together before the busy upcoming season.

It was a successful evening and enjoyed by all.

The staff at Galgorm would like to wish the Ballymena Rugby Club all the best in the new season.