Ballyclare RFC 36 v Cooke RFC 21!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Clare get off the mark
Ballyclare made the short journey to Shaws Bridge on Saturday for their first away game of the season. Co-tenants Cooke were the opposition, who were making their first appearance in the qualifying league of the season. Cooke had already recorded two victories in the Conference league against the senior 2XV’s Ballynahinch and Belfast Harlequins.
Ballyclare had lost on their last visit to Cooke at the end of last season.
Coach Mike McKeever, was able to call on the experienced Michael Rainey in the forwards and new signing, on a dual status with Queens, Andrew Butler in the backs. Last years under 18 player Thomas McGookin debuted at scrum half.
Cooke kicked off and started at a frenetic pace. They pressured Ballyclare in their 22, the ball flashed out to their left wing who beat his man and ran in for a score within 2 mins of the start. The conversion gave Cooke a 7-0 lead. Ballyclare responded quickly, Clotworthy broke in centre field making good territory. At the breakdown the ball was recycled quickly to Lawther, who sidestepped his defender and touched down just to the right of the posts. Bobby Smith back in the side following the end of the cricket season added the conversion.
The score stood at 7-7 with barely 5 mins on the clock. Smith added a penalty to nudge Clare into the lead. Ballyclare settled into the game and were dominating in all areas, keeping Cooke pegged back. A wayward looping pass in attack from Clare was intercepted by the speedy Cooke left wing who ran from the Cooke 10m line and score his second try under the posts to give Cooke the lead, 14-10. Smith kicked another penalty soon after as Ballyclare continued to pressurise their opposition. A line out won inside Cooke’s 22, lead to a number of rucks with Ballyclare retaining possession. Michael Rainey was able to spot the gap and broke the Cooke line just left of the posts. Smith’s trusty left boot added the conversion, a further penalty before the whistle gave Ballyclare a 23-14 half time lead.
The teams turned round with Clare now playing into a stiff breeze that was blowing straight down the pitch. Ballyclare’s dominance forced errors from Cooke which were punished by Smith, adding two further penalties. Ballyclare added another try when Clotworthy made good ground, drew the defenders, passed inside to Smith who was on his shoulder. Bobby ran in under the posts to leave a straight forward conversion. Cooke 14 Ballyclare 36. As the game headed to the inevitable ending. A break in Clare’s concentration allowed Cooke to score and convert to leave the full time score Cooke 21 Ballyclare 36.
A much more characteristic Ballyclare performance. The front 8 dominating in scrums and lineouts. Michael Rainey performed excellently at No 8 and Mo Finlay at prop. The back line gelled well with Dave Clarke making gains whenever he was on the ball. Bobby Smiths first outing of the season looked assured with an impressive personal 26 point haul. Special mention must go Tommy McGookin on his debut. The young player put in an outstanding performance doing all that was expected of a scrum half.
Three other Ballyclare teams played at the weekend with the 2nd XV and 3rd XV suffering heavy defeats. The 4’s edged out winners away at Ballymoney.
Ballyclare 1st XV (1-15) M Finlay, R Scott, A Boyd, W Logan, R Johnston, P Robinson, G Weatherup, M Rainey, T McGookin, N Lawther, S Cusick, D Clarke, G Clotworthy, R Tweed, R Smith.
Replacements; J McKinstry, A Butler

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