Crushing semi-final win takes Academy into Shield final

Josh Bill scored three tries in Ballymena Academy's weekend victory over Portora.
Josh Bill scored three tries in Ballymena Academy's weekend victory over Portora.

Ballymena Academy’s First XV will have the opportunity to finish off their season on a trophy-winning note later this month.

The Galgorm Road boys’ Danske Bank Schools’ Cup may have ended at the first hurdle after defeat to Methodist College, but John Andrews’ side has since put together a fine run in the Subsidiary Shield competition.

On Saturday, Ballymena Academy made the long journey to Enniskillen to lock horns with Portora Royal School in the semi-final. The blustery wind and difficult underfoot conditions at the Co. Fermanagh venue meant that both teams knew they would have to work hard to dominate territory and possession.

Ballymena opened the scoring with an outstanding team try. From a scrum on the halfway line, the Ballymena backs found space out wide and, following several carries and off-loads from Craig Hanna, Joe Thompson and Alexander Clarke, Marcus Rea powered over for the score. Andrew Magrath was successful with the conversion to give the away team a 7–0 lead.

Midway through the first half, Ballymena doubled their lead when Josh Bill broke free from a maul to score in the corner. Magrath’s touchline conversion was judged perfectly to take the score to 14–0. Andrew was successful with a penalty attempt just before half-time to give Ballymena a 17–0 lead at the interval.

Portora started the second half strongly but an excellent turnover from Josh McIlroy saw Ballymena move the ball wide for Dean Reynolds to finish in the corner. At 22–0, with Magrath and Michael Stronge dictating the pace of the match with their strong kicking games, the Ballymena pack began to tighten their control.

Following another well-executed lineout, the Ballymena Academy maul was unstoppable as Josh Bill was on hand to provide the finishing touches.

Ten minutes later, in a carbon copy of the previous try, Josh Bill again touched down for his third try of the morning. Magrath converted to increase the score to 34 – 0.

With twenty minutes to go, Ballymena Academy emptied their bench and several younger members of the squad enjoyed an extended run in a competitive game.

Ballymena Academy now go forward to meet Down High School in the Subsidiary Shield Final at the Kingspan Stadium on Thursday 19th March.