The 1st xv travelled to Ballymoney for the 2nd round junior cup game billed as the major local derby of the round, which offered both clubs the opportunity of making the quarter finals for the second year in a row. The home team ran out deserved winners 17 – 6 in a good natured advertisement for the game and a hard encounter but only after their young neighbours gave them a real challenge to solve and for an hour the upset was a real possibility.
The game started with the students receiving the kick off which was well fielded by skipper Dunlevey who aided by second rows Leonard and McCullough drove hard into the Ballymoney midfield, quick ball recycled several times saw the students get into the home teams 22, but an unforced error allowed the ‘toon’ to clear their lines. The game for large periods of the first half ebbed and flowed with both sets of backs and forwards challenging each other but in general cancelled each other out. on the half hour mark the game came to life with an excellent student attack from hooker Ryan Eecock forcing a penalty from the home teams no6 going off his feet and offering the first kick at the posts from 30 m out however Whitcroft grazed the outside of the upright to leave things scoreless, the students pushed hard with some good lines being cut by centres Winder and fresher Henry but the professionalism of the home defence kept the students out.
Ballymoney then attacked opening the students up, however a great scramble defence and a superb tackle by Sam Hall kept the Ballymoney winger out, shortly after a soft penalty was conceded and the home team out half made no mistake to give the home team the lead.
The students through there impressive wing forwards Henley and Millar and props O’Neill and Wilkinson made real ground and forced a penalty from the mean Ballymoney defence which Whitcroft converted to level things. Just before half time and probably what became the telling pattern of the game was Ballymoney for the second time got into the Uni’s red zone and came away with another 3 points to go into half time 6- 3 in front.
The second half saw the students now playing towards the Clubrooms with the elements on there backs and the knowledgeable home crowed could sense an upset was possible and things tightened up shortly into the half when the students levelled things when they forced a penalty from a great break by fullback Rowden who used all his 16 st and 6′ 4” frame to make good yards and only by slowing the release of the ball did Ballymoney stop a probable try. The uni Out half punished accordingly. The students now in full flow were awarded another penalty from about 40 m out which dropped just under the crossbar, to Ballymoney’s relief.
Ballymoney showed, perhaps the difference between the teams from this point on that when they ventured into the Uni 22, two times in the next phase of the game once to convert a hard earned penalty and crucially to score the games only try by recycling 15 phases to eventually score in the corner. The conversion missed to give them a 14 – 6 lead.
The students to their credit continued to attack with Winger Sharpah and scrum half Murphy making strong runs and Dunlevey and Wilkinson plundering into Ballymoney territory even the introduction of fresh legs in the back row from the lively Aaron Doherty were all to no avail and importantly no points return. Disappointingly verbal and slow retreat from penalties, the indiscretions cost the university hard won yards and perhaps the game. Individuals should be looking at themselves rather than commenting on others, this would surely have helped their cause more. Ballymoney converted a penalty on the final whistle to rightly keep the bragging rights as the best team in the area however also knowing that the students made them work hard to make the quarter finals