After a 3 week break, Coleraine 2XV got the league campaign back on track with a determined win against a tough Ballyclare outfit. Playing in the usual cold, wet and windy December conditions made running rugby difficult at times, but both teams contributed well to a tight match.
Playing with a strong prevailing wind, Ballyclare took the game to Coleraine from the off, and most of the first 20 minutes where played deep in the Coleraine half. However, good defensive tackling from the home team, along with the odd Ballyclare error, kept the scoring chances at a premium in the early exchanges. Eventually, the Ballyclare 10 slotted a penalty from close range after a previous missed attempt. However, Coleraine grew more into the game and after a quick tap penalty, scrum half Scott Cathness ran a good 30 metres before offloading to the supporting Harry Tate who glided in for the first try of the game. Playing with confidence as the game progressed, Coleraine scored their second try through captain Paul Shiels who side stepped his way past the on-rushing Ballyclare defenders after some strong forward play. The conversion from short range pushed Coleraine out to a 12-3 half time lead.
Turning to play with the wind, Coleraine were determined to play a territory game and kick when possible. This wasn’t always the best option, as the dangerous Ballyclare fullback showed exceptional pace and footwork every time he got his hands on the ball. Ballyclare put good pressure on the Coleraine line and were rewarded with a converted penalty after disrupting another Coleraine scrum. Ballyclare scored their first try after a fly-hack led to a foot race won by the ‘Clare winger in the right corner. Now the momentum was all with Ballyclare, and their second try of the game was scored under the posts by their centre who ghosted in untouched through a massive hole in the Coleraine defence. Remarkably the conversion between the sticks was charged down by Ronnie Caskey to give Ballyclare a 4 point lead. To Coleraine’s credit, the heads didn’t go down, and a series of penalties led to the loss of the Ballyclare second row to the sin-bin for 10 minutes. Good lineout and driving forward work laid the platform for Coleraine’s match winning try, as after a number of tight phases, eventually the ball was passed out wide for full back Alan Gourley to chip into the corner for winger Stevie Callaghan to touch down. Although the conversion was missed, Shiels made no mistake with a penalty chance after Ballyclare frustration gave away another infringement. Although Ballyclare rallied in the dying moments of the game, it wasn’t enough to force any further scores, and Coleraine ran out winners of a hard-fought game.
Team: A Gourley, S Callaghan, R Naea, J McClelland, C McNay, P Shiels, S Cathness, A Teasey, S Evans, G Blair, W Chestnutt, Graeme Neely, H Tate, Greg Neely, R Caskey