Two of the Schools’ Cup ‘seeded’ teams, Ballymena Academy and Methodist College, locked horns at the Galgorm Road venue on Saturday morning.
In an entertaining and fast-paced game, both teams enjoyed sustained periods of territorial domination.
After 15 minutes, Methodist College opened the scoring in typical fashion when their pack powered over from close range.
Robert Lyttle added the conversion and, ten minutes later, increased the lead to 10 points with a well-struck penalty.
Ballymena Academy rallied and full back Dean Reynolds beat several defenders on his way to scoring below the posts.
Andrew Magrath’s conversion made the score 10–7.
Methody gathered the ball from the kick off and a chip over the Ballymena backs saw Alistair McIvor win the ball in the air and touch down below the posts. Lyttle’s conversion made the score 17–7 at the interval.
The second half started with Methody further increasing their lead.
An outstanding run out of defence by Robert Lyttle culminated with a clever off-load for Connor Kelly to score in the corner and the lead stretched to 22–7.
The remainder of the match was dominated by the home team.
Ballymena turned down the chance of an easy penalty below the posts but were unsuccessful with their attempt to score quickly.
Shortly afterwards, Marcus Rea muscled his way over the line to bring the score to 22–12 and give Ballymena new hope.
Andrew Magrath missed the conversion, but added a penalty soon afterwards to make the score 22–15.
With five minutes left on the clock, Magrath scored a try to reduce the deficit to two points, but the conversion was missed and the score remained 22–20 until the end of the game.
Shortly after the final whistle, the draw for the Schools’ Cup was made and the result of this game took on a greater significance as Methodist College will return to Ballymena Academy in two weeks when both schools enter the Schools’ Cup.
Ballymena Academy: Reynolds, Alexander, McIlroy, Kernohan, Hanna, Magrath, Stronge; Forsythe, Clarke, Moody, McNabney, Rea, Holmes, McKeown, Thompson Rep. Small, Malcolm