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Last Saturday the semi finals were played in the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup interestingly within a few miles of each other and it was the away team in each case that progressed to the final at Ravenhill on Tuesday 17th December. At Ballymoney the home team lost in the last minute by 19-12 to Ballynahinch 2nds while at Coleraine again the home side went down 22-3 to Ballyclare.The Clare result must create an historic occasion as it means that the team coached by Bob Young will have reached two Ravenhill Cup finals within the one calendar year. It is extremely doubtful if at any time in the past that a Qualifying 2 team has contested the finals of the Towns Cup, which the Clare shared last April and the Junior Cup later in the month against the Hinch. At Coleraine on Saturday the semi final win was a clear cut victory -the nin th win for the White Hare men in the past two seasons against teams from Qual. 1. At no time did Coleraine look like crossing the Clare line and it was significant that at the pre match lunch some of the home officials reckoned that Ballyclare were the favourites -well before the game was played! Ballyclare were still missing Smith,Byers,Crawford, Clotworthy and most notably veteran forward Logan but there were welcome returns by Loughlin, Paul Morrow , Wardrop and Baird in the back division plus Jordan McKinstry, Finlay, Coburn and Rainey in the pack. All five subs were utilised by coach Bo b Young and Ballyclare having dominated the first half also snuffed out any threats from the home team in the second period and finished the stronger side belying their league status. Meanwhile on the very important Qual. 2 league front on Saturday Academy had a bonus point win to reduce the lead by the Clare but with a game more played.
In this Junior Cup semi final there appeared to be a stronger support for the Clare team than the home side. Ballyclare included Coburn for the injured Logan,Skipper Rab Boyd was back after his shoulder injury and Jordan McKinstry also returned in the back row . In the backs Wardrop returned along with PaulMorrow on the wing and Loughlin was back in the centre but Crawford did not play so Reid was at centre. Ballyclare are top of Qual 2 while Coleraine are in the bottom half of Qual.1
The game started with Ballyclare laying seige to the home 22 as Wardrop kicked to the corner and R.Boyd drove to the line with N.Lawther just heldup.the early pressure told when a lineoutwon by G,McKinstry became a maul and Coburn got the touch down out wide with Collie Morrow narrowly wide with the conversion attempt. This gave the visitors a 5-0 lead but Coleraine tried to counter only for C.Morrow to kick his team back tothe home 22. The visitors made more ground as Wardrop kicked a penalty towards the corner and Reid was stopped near the line. Wardrop had a strong attacking run but the Clare were penalised at the ensuing ruck.But Greer then raced into the Coleraine 22 only for Coleraine to counter attack through N.Hall. Ballyclare again surged downfield with Coburn breaking from a scrum and the ball was taken on by J.McKinstry before transferring to P.Morrow who went over in the right corner for a try which was converted by C.Morrow to go 12-0 up.
The momentum was kept up as Wardrop and Greer took the White Hares back to the home 22 and a run from Reid looked threatening.Though Coleraine did manaage to clear N.Lawther chipped deep into the danger area and the Qual.1 side escaped when an attempted clearance was charged down as Ballyclare kept playing the more positive rugby.Coburn again drove close to the home line and a likely score was prevented by an unfortunate knock on. However the home team was adjudged to have strayed off side and C.Morrow slotted the penalty to give Ballyclare a well deserved 15-0 lead.This was followed by a great run up the left by skipper Rab Boyd and had he gon e on instead of slowing for support another try would have ensued.The half ended with P.Morrow and R.Boyd pressing for score but this time Coleraine held out but they had never made the Clare 22 in the opening half.
Half Time -Coleraine 0 Ballyclare 15
Coleraine played down the slope in the second half and were expected to come more into contention.This seemed to be apparent when their scrum half slotted over an early penalty to make it 15-3.But Ballyclare responded almost immediately as Wardrop broke from just inside his own half and set off on a powerful run beating four would be defenders to go over for a superb solo try which C.Morrow converted to put the East Antrim men well clear at 22-3. From the restart Coleraine showed more urgency but never really threatened the line. Rainey now replaced Coburn who had done really well at number eight. The home pack eventually forced a five metre scrum and Hall was stopped by a good tackle.Baird now came on for the impressive Wardrop and immediately made ground up the right side as Ballyclare regained control of the game inside the home 22. Finlay replaced Wylie in the Clare front row but for the first time the Coleraine scrum began to give the Clare problems. The home side had a penalty for a high tackle and kicked for a stronger field position only to find the Clare defence tough to break. Eventually C.Morrow cleared the danger and Rainey combined with Baird to take play back to the home 22 KIrk now came on for Weatherup and near the end Jones replaced D.Lawther. Ballyclare played out time with no further threat from the opposition and on the day were very good value for the win. For the Clare Skipper Rab Boyd stood out alongside Coburn,both McKinstrys, Weatherup and D.Lawther up front with all the backs proving more effective than the opposition throughout.Wardrop proved a major danger to the home team each time he got the ball.
Ballyclare -A,Wardrop;P,Morrow,J,Reid,N.Laughlin,J,Greer;N.Lawther,C.Morrow;A.Boyd,A.Wylie,D.Lawther;R.Boyd (capt),G.McKinstry;G.Weatherup,C.Coburn,J.McKinstry; Subs -M.Rainey,J.J.Baird,A.Jones,M.Kirk,M.Finlay;

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