Place in next seasons All Ireland Junior Cup Secured.
Due to Bangor RFC’s participation in the Town’s Cup on Easter Monday, Ballyclare travelled to North Down to play their final league game of the season on Thursday 24th March.
A lot was at stake where a bonus point victory would secure Bangor the league title and a point of any description would secure Ballyclare’s fourth placing and entry into next season’s prestigious All Ireland Junior Cup competition. Bangor have been the stand out side in the Qualifying League this season, so the task was a big one.
The pitch at Uprichard Park was in great shape and with the days earlier rain cleared the weather conditions were excellent. From the kick off Bangor started with purpose and within five minutes were encamped in the Clare 22. From a scrum close to the Ballyclare line, the powerful Bangor No 8, Stewart, drove over the line to score, conversion added giving Bangor an early 7-0 lead.
Ballyclare were finding the strong Bangor forwards difficult to contain, they provided a good platform for their athletic backs to attack. By 25 minutes, Bangor had scored two further tries, through their left wing and centre. Ballyclare now trailed 17-0.
As the first half was drawing to a close, Bangor were again curtailing Ballyclare in their own half. Bangor took a scrum against the head, the No 8 picked up and drove again for the line, Ballyclare defenders tried to hold him out but he twisted and turned to get the ball down. Bangor had secured the try bonus point by half time leading 24-0 at the break.
Ballyclare had work to do in the second half and contained Bangor well for the first 20 minutes, Bangor remained patient and got 2 further scores to go 36-0 up. Gary Weatherup rallied his team for the last quarter as the Clare lads showed some gutsy determination. From a line out close to the Bangor line a driving maul was set up. Bangor couldn’t curtail the advance towards the line and ended up bringing the maul down illegally. The referee awarded Ballyclare a penalty try and with Smith adding the conversion they had clawed back 7. 36-7.
Ballyclare continued to exert pressure on Bangor in their own half. A break by young scrum half Thomas McGookin followed by a clever underarm reverse pass to Robert Smith allowed the full back to cut through and score. Smith quickly drop kicked the conversion. 36-14
Ballyclare again went on the attack, hooker Dave Chambers going close at the end, Bangor however scrambled the ball into touch as the final whistle sounded. Smith, McGookin and Butler performed well in the backs. The Ballyclare forwards struggled to contain the commanding Bangor pack. Weatherup and Robinson tackled tirelessly, Willie Logan and Robert Boyd carried the ball well.
Ballyclare left empty handed as the league champions celebrated. Congratulations Bangor, worthy winners. Ballyclare now had an anxious wait until Saturday when, if Omagh did not beat 3rd in the table Clogher Valley, who were suffering an injury crisis and had conceded 50 points to Bangor the week previously, with a try bonus point, Ballyclare would secure 4th place. Clogher Valley against Omagh finished in a 13 all draw. So in only their second season back in Qualifying 1 with a record of 9 wins 1 draw and 8 defeats, Ballyclare had met their objective of a top 4 finish!
Ballyclare 1st XV 1-15; R Scott, D Chambers, A Boyd, R Boyd, W Logan, P Robinson, G Weatherup, R Tweed, T McGookin, G Clotworthy, JJ Baird, S Cusick, D Clarke, A Butler, R Smith.
Replacements; W Rea, M Robson.
Saturday saw an historic event at the Cloughan when Ballyclare’s 3rd XV and 4th XV played a league game against each other. Ulster Branch league reorganisation had saw the 2 sides end up together in Junior 5. Usually teams from the same club were kept apart in league competitions. With the first encounter between the sides falling foul of the weather in December, a good crowd gathered to watch the “double header”.
With no shortage of players wanting to take to the field for this fixture, both sides fielded strong teams. The 3’s took the lead through a Montgomery penalty soon cancelled out by a Wasson reply. 3-3. The 4’s took the lead when Heaney drove over the line. Wasson adding the conversion. Martyn Todd increased the 4’s lead with a try, before the 3’s wing, Pyper touched down. 8-15.
The entertaining encounter was being played in great spirit with a wealth of rugby talent on show, many previous 1st XV players included in both sides. Ian Heaney showed great speed as he broke clear and scored under the posts. Wasson adding the conversion to give the 4’s a 22-8 lead. David Tweed pulled a score back for the 3’s right at the end. His own conversion attempt going just wide as the final whistle sounded. Ballyclare 3’s 13 Ballyclare 4’s 22. With double points on offer for the victory Marc Fox’s men moved closer to second in the league. Both sides have a couple of games still to play. Well done to all involved.
Ballyclare’s impressive U14 side travelled to Monaghan for a cup tie but were edged out by a point in a 25-24 loss.
Next Saturday the 2nd XV return to league action with a home fixture against City of Derry 2’s, the 3’s and 4’s are also at home against Newry 2’s and Ballymoney 3’s respectively.