Kukri Qualifying 1: Cooke 12 – 25 Ballymoney

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Saturday saw Ballymoney defeat a team which has always been a real problem for them for the first time in a couple of years. The victory was made even sweeter by the fact that it was in their own back yard. Ballymoney made the trip to Shaws Bridge to play Cooke RFC and returned home victorious with a 25-12 score line.

Ballymoney made a prominent start into the game, with early pressure resulting in Cooke rushing off side and giving away a penalty early on. Captain James Clelland slotted it home for the first points of the day. The next points came not long after when another penalty was given for a Cooke player not releasing the ball in the ruck, Clelland put this one away as well.

Cooke were not going to lie down easily though and began to pile on the pressure. The larger pack tried to make inwards into the Ballymoney defence but the usual well organised defence dealt with the threat. An ineffective lineout was a big problem for Cooke and Ballymoney took advantage of all opportunities to disrupt this. The first try of the day came through Jonny Hanna spoiling a Cooke throw, the away side gathered and secured the ball, The ball was then quickly released to Martin Irwin who charged the Cooke defence, with his centres and wingers drawing away defenders and Martin’s quick feet he was able to sail home for the first try of the game.

Ballymoney’s next try came after a period of pressure. Ballymoney worked the ball wide and after a quick ruck, Jason Taggart spotted the gap and gunned for it and managed to draw the defender and Offload just before the tackle to release Brett Nicolas to score his first try of the season.

Ballymoney were sitting pretty towards the end of the first half but were quickly reminded of where they were when a Cooke up and under was kicked through and gathered. Despite the man being tackled he was still able to offload the ball to the flanker who crossed the line for Cooke’s first points of the encounter just before half time.

The second half was one which saw Cooke try to come into the game and make up for their first half performance. Cooke pushed hard but it was Ballymoney’s dominance in the line out which again resulted in the next try. A well worked catch and drive steered Jonny Hanna in from the back of a maul. The Toon pushed hard for the rest of the half but the bonus point try eluded them.

Cooke were not going to lie down either and in the dieing minutes of the game were camped out inside the Ballymoney 22. A quick break when Ballymoney were left baffled by a refereeing decision allowed the Cooke prop to cross the line for their second of the game. The final score ran out at 25-12.

Captain James Cleland said “ There are many grounds which since coming to Section one we haven’t been able to get a win at, this is one, and today we have got that monkey off our backs. We are very pleased with the performance. Congratulations to Dalriada also, It is not often two Ballymoney sides come to Belfast and go away with the victory”.

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