Ballymoney Rugby I XV 17 v Clogher Valley Rugby I XV 26: + Pictures Of Clogher I XV & II XV in action

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Ballymoney 1XV – 1 tries, 0 conversions, 4 penalties, 0 drop goals.
Clogher Valley 1XV – 2 tries, 2 conversions, 3 penalties, 1 drop goals.

Valley secure points in Ballymoney


Valley with a number of key players missing started brightly and exerted pressure in the Ballymoney 22 for the first 5 minutes. They had the benefit of two penalties which they ran and were just held up over the line. Regrettable the Valley scrum was turned over and Ballymoney were able to clear to touch. Valley attacked from the lineout and were awarded a penalty which out half Best kicked to give a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, in the buildup, their influential captain and main line out jumper Sharkey was seriously injured and had to be replaced by Irvine at prop allowing Bennett to move to the back row.

Valley were disrupted for a few minutes and Ballymoney seized the initiative to attack for the first time into Valley 22 where they were awarded a penalty which they kicked. Valley regained their composure and with prop Moore and man of the match Bennett to the fore their trademark pick and drive and good ball retention left Ballymoney reeling. However whilst Valley were retaining possession and were dominant in territory their tactics were easy to defend against. There was little width to their play and they never moved the ball wide to their pacey backs.

After 21 mins scrum half Bates put a good diagonal ball to the corner which Ballymoney only just managed to get into touch. Valley won the lineout and from the ensuring ruck the Ballymoney No 8 was penalized and then yellow carded for killing the ball. Best kicked the penalty for Valley to lead 6-3 in what was turning out to be a dour encounter.

Valley were unable to capitalise on the extra man and in fact were turned over and then conceded a penalty which was converted to leave the game tied at 6-6. Valley continued to attack but never looked like breaking down the strong Ballymoney defence. Valley again were held up over the line but could not utilize the resultant scrum though another penalty by Best allowed them to lead 9-6 at the interval.

Whenever the second half started Ballymoney realized that they could win the game and started to move the ball at every opportunity. The Valley defence was found wanting with many missed first up tackles. This allowed Ballymoney field possession and with Valley continuing to give away silly penalties, Ballymoney moved to a 12-9 lead and were beginning to look comfortable. Valley appeared to have run out of options. They could exert no pressure on Ballymoney in scrum or lineout and Ballymoney continued to defend and more the ball well. However one moment of quick thinking was to benefit Valley. From a good kick by Ally Breen the Valley backs were able to force Ballymoney to try to set up a ruck in front of their posts to clear the danger. The referee called ball out and the first to react was Bennett who pinched the ball and passed to hooker Guildford, who had another fine game, go in under the posts for a fortunate try which was kicked by Best to leave Valley leading 16-12 with 20 minutes to go.

This reverse stung Ballymoney into their best period of play. They attacked with width and as the Valley defence continued to miss tackles, Ballymoney were unfortunate not to score on a number of occasions as they took the wrong options or dropped scoring passes. Valley could not hold out and when Ballymoney moved the ball first left and then back right their winger was on hand to score in the corner. The kick was missed bur Ballymoney led 17-16 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

From the restart Valley started to move the ball better and began to make some good progress. Ballymoney continued to defend well but then lost another player to a yellow card for stamping, which appeared accidental. Entering the final five minutes Valley realised a special effort would be needed if they were to win. For the first time their scrum destroyed a Ballymoney put in and Valley managed to win the resultant loose ball. They continued to pick and drive but this time released the ball to Best to kick a fine drop goal for the lead at 19-17. From the restart Valley kept control of the ball through their forwards in phase after phase. Ballymoney could not get their hands on the ball for one last attack. Yet, just when the match entered injury time, Valley, instead of kicking for field position, tried to create another maul and were turned over. Ballymoney took advantage and launched a last frantic attack to try and win the game. Valley, when they needed big plays, made two outstanding defensive tackles which dislodged the ball from Ballymoney hands. As the ball bounced free McClure was the first to react, picked up and ran 70 metres for a fine individual try. Best kicked the conversation to leave Valley winners at 26-17. Ballymoney did not even retain a bonus point in a game that they may have deserved to win. Certainly Valley could not have complained had they done so.

Though Valley retained the ball well they were lackluster in other parts of their play and were very predicable. They will have to improve substantially if they are to have any chance against Amagh in next week’s Towns Cup Semi Final.

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