Ballymena advanced to the semi-finals of the First Trust Senior Cup with a 30-7 home win over Banbridge on Saturday.
Once again playing conditions at Eaton Park were ideal - no wind, a mild day and firm conditions underfoot, and both teams did their best to entertain the sparse crowd with eighty minutes of fast paced, open rugby.
For the second time this month Ballymena were on the scoresheet almost from the kick off. They were awarded a penalty just inside their own half, and before Banbridge could get organised John Creighton, who has proved to be a really valuable addition to the squad, took a quick tap and set off at pace and eventually Creighton was there again to feed Patrick McGowan who was driven over for the try with only two minutes on the clock. Callum Patterson, who had taken over the place kicking duties for the day, missed the difficult conversion.
Undeterred, Banbridge then dominated play for a spell and after 18 minutes their persistence paid off when No6 Bentley went over for a try at the posts, converted by Thompson for a 7-5 lead.
The first of Ballymena’s four unanswered trials came when a promising looking Banbridge attack broke down and Martin Irwin picked up the loose ball and fed Jonny Rosborough on the left wing who made 50 metres before he was hunted down.
The ball was recycled and out half Glenn Baillie threw out a long pass to McBurney who swept in at the corner to put Ballymena back in the lead at 10-7.
Their third try was a great team effort with Patterson getting the touch down for a try which he converted himself. He then rounded off the first half scoring with a penalty leaving Ballymena 20-7 ahead at half time.
A lineout steal by McGowan and a clever kick by Creighton set up a good attacking position. Ballymena gain showed patience, went through the phases and a typical run through the middle by Ian Caldwell, making a welcome return, found McGowan in support. The ball was moved left to Irwin whose long pass was tipped on into the hands of Beattie, who went over unopposed for another unconverted try, making the score 25-7.
A penalty into the corner set up a lineout drive but the chance seemed to have gone when the ball went loose and was hacked ahead by Banbridge.
But Rosborough retrieved the position and Baillie put a perfect pass to Irwin who weaved his way through the defence for a fine individual try, not converted, to complete the scoring at 30-7.
* Ballymena have been drawn at home to Queen’s University in the semi-final of the Senior Cup, on November 14.
* Ballymena resume their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League Division 1B campaign this Saturday when they host Blackrock College (2.30pm).