COMMITTED CLARE ADVANCE IN TOWNS CUP
Ballyclare 1st XV faced possibly the biggest test to date on Saturday when they played Donaghadee at the Cloughan in the second round of the Powerade Towns Cup. The fact that the Co.Down men were on a run of five wins in Qualifying 1 and had moved up to second place in the league meant that this was a tough draw for Bob Youngs men. The Clare dominated play in the first half when the Dee only twice reached the home 22 but the visitors did well to keep the Clare out for only one score. Despite having to make a couple of substitutions and also having a player sin binned in the second half, Ballyclare showed great commitment to hold out for a win by 8-3 and reach the quarter finals. This was the fourth Qualifying 1 team that Ballyclare had managed to beat this season and a well deserved result as admitted even by the opposition players and large crowd of supporters. Ballyclare 2nds even with the returning Gary Clotworthy and Mo Finlay both likely 1st XV players went down 23-0 away to Ballymoney 2nds. The 3rds game at home was called off but the Fourths were most disappointed to lose in the closing minutes away to Armagh 3rds in the Forster Cup 24-23.
BALLYCLARE 8 DONAGHADEE 3
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This Towns Cup game was sponsored by Newtownabbey Borough Council and attracted a good crowd of travelli ng supporters . Conditions were quite good and in the first half the Clare had slight wind advantage. A well measured kick by Lawther took the home pack well into the opposite 22 and Mark Weatherup was halted short of the line.Cusack followed up and the home pack drove forwards to maintain the pressure. Next a break by Clarke again made ground and the home pack was well up to the Dee 22 and had dominated the opening twelve minutes. From a break by Lawther , Rainey was halted short of the line.Blewitt cleared for the Dee but Adam Wardrop followed up his own kick to pen the visitors back inside their own 22. Mark Weatherup raced up the right side and cut back inside where he was driven over the line by his pack for a deserved try which amazingly the normally reliable Smith failed to convert.
The Section 1 side tried to counter but Lawther kicked b ack to their 22 and a break from Logan made futher ground. The Dee scrum half managed to reach the Clare 22 only for the first time b ut was dispossessed and Clarke broke upfield supported by Wardrop who was standing in for Collie Morrow and doing well. Donaghadee kicked back into the home half and created only their second phase of pressure during the half.But the score was still 5-0 at the interval after strong domination from the Clare back row and centre Clarke who always made ground.
Donaghadee restarted strongly forcing Lawther to clear his lines an d again Clarke drove through in midfield. The Dee were offside at halfway and Smith attempted the penalty and was unlucky as the ball fell just short of the crossbar. The visitors hit back into the home 22 but Wardrop did well to clear and then Lawther slotted a fine kick up to the opposite 22 to give his side useful field position. The home backs were trying to run the ball from deep but at scrum time Dee number eight Thompson posed a threat only to be halted by Weatherup and Rainey. A break by the ever improving Wardrop relieved the pressure and Clarke took play back to the Dee 22 where the visitors were deemed to be off side and this time Smith kicked the penalty to give the Clare an 8-0 lead. At this stage Hall came on at prop for Henderson and the Dee made ground towards the Clare line but a great take by McKin stry enabled Wardrop to clear. However Smith was caught in possession and the visitors were awarded a penalty which was kicked by Blewiktt to reduce the home lead.Paul Morrow now came into the back row as Rainey went off with an ankle injury.The Dee pressed into the home 22 and home prop Boyd was harshly sin binned while Smith was down in jured but gam ely continued. After Blewitt kicked his pack up to near the home line the dee had a chance from a scrum but could not get the better of the Clare pack who held out for a fine victory which was totally deserved with a great team effort notably with excellent work from the back row,Rob Boyd`s driving in the loose,.a gutsy performance by Wardrop ,powerful running from Clarke and welcome pace and agression by Mark Weatherup who had his best game since being promoted to the 1st XV.
BALLYMONEY 2nds 23 BALLYCLARE 2nds 0
The Seconds had not played for several weeks and also coach Gareth Johnston was forced to make a number of changes. He was able to players who had been injured a number of weeks ago namely prop Mo Finlay and Gary Clotworthy at fly half -both had been 1st XV regulars earlier in the season and hopefully are on their way back. But the home team dominated the first half startin g with a converted try followed by a penalty. The Seconds tended to make handling errors and Ballymoney added another penalty and an unconverted try for an 18-0 lead . According to coach Johnston things were not helped by a series of amazing decisions-no fewer than sixteen penalties were awarded against the Clare in the first half alone! Centre Gillan was yellow carded and it was still 18-0 at half time .
The Seconds lost Phil Moan injured but to be fair did well in the second half and the pack was held up early in the half while Clotworthy was looking for openings Still they were penalised at key times when well placed and Ballymoney managed one more try in the corner.There were good performances from Finlay,David Rodgers on the wing,Beasant at full back,Nial Morris and Clotworthy but after a good start to the season the team needs to get back to winning ways.
ARMAGH 3rds 24 BALLYCLARE 4ths 23
This Forster Cup tie proved to be most disappointing for the Fourths as they had done enough in the second half to go clear but Armagh who actually play two Sections higher managed a try two minutes from the end to steal the match but if the Clare had kicked at least one of three missed second half penalties they would have won it.The 4ths did field a strong side but Armagh took the early lead and had three tries against one from Trvor Clarke plus a John Wasson penalty so it was 19-8 to the home team at half time .
In the second half the Clare got on topand Clarke got in for another try followed by a Wasson penalty. Then Gareth Smith went over to score with Wasson adding the points to give his side a 23-19 lead. Wasson was just wide with three other kicks before Armagh forced a very late score out wide to get ahead 24-23. There were good performances from Jonathan Barnett,Steven Baillie and man of the match Neil Fox but this was a gut wrenching loss for the Clare team.
SATURDAYS FIXTURES -1st XV v Omagh (away) -This is a huge league test for the Clare and a strong support is requested at Mellon Park for the team.
4th Xv vCookstown (away)