Ballymena Seconds survived a late fightback by Clogher Valley to win 26-22 in Fermanagh and clinch a place in the quarter-finals of the Junior Cup on Saturday.
Facing a very strong wind, Ballymena spent a lot of time defending, but held out until the 32nd minute when another powerful scrum set up a position for their left wing to cross for an unconverted try.
Ballymena would have settled for a five point deficit at half time, but a penalty to Valley just on the stroke of half time enabled them to set up a line out drive and go over for a try, which was converted.
The referee awarded four penalties in the first 20 minutes of the half, and Tim Small accepted the opportunities and kicked all four of them to level the score.
The Ballymena backs began to make their presence felt and after a long run by Rory Smith down the left touchline, the ball was recycled quickly and move wide to set up Paul Rainey for a try which he took well, evading the last two defenders and scoring to the right of the posts, which Small converted, putting his side into the lead for the first time, at 19-12.
At this stage Valley were reduced to fourteen men after their No. 9 was yellow carded. That position was made even worse when their prop was dismissed for tem minutes.
Ballymena’s second try of the day came when the ball was kicked ahead and it was Paul Rainey who proved the fastest, outpacing the opposition backs to gather the ball and crash over for a try between the posts, Tim Small again converting.
That 14 fourteen point lead seemed secure enough, but Valley, now restored to 15 players, scored two late tries, one of them in the fifth minute of time added on but Ballymena held on to avenge a last minute Towns’ Cup semi-final loss last season.