The individual performances coupled with a titanic backline effort dragged Uni over the finish line as victors against a much bigger and more physical Ballymoney team.
As soon as the game started our error became clear. What Uni lacked in size they more than made up for with speed and sheer ferocity in contact. With a rampant back row led by the outstanding Number 8 Aaron Doherty, and Number 7 Joe ‘Zeus’ McKinnley barely missed a tackle all game. Uni’s pack ran Ballymoney off their feet in the first half, suffocating them and linking brilliantly with the backs.
And what a back division! Feeding off the sheer number of offloads from their pack, the Uni back line, led by Tommy McLaughlin at fly half and the effervescent scrum half Mark Gillespie tore into Ballymoney. Within 10 minutes Uni were on the board, choosing to run a penalty from ten metres out and Tommy went in virtually under the posts. Ballymoney stepped up the pressure forcing themselves into the Uni 22, but struggled to deal with the physicality of Uni and lost the ball. Quick hands out the back line saw Jackson the full back scoring again under the posts. Towards the end of the half and after shrugging off a few injuries both Tommy and Jackson where on the score sheet again. Continued pressure from the Uni forwards resulted in a scrum just outside the 22, a quick hook and quicker feet from the number 8 left the Ballymoney backrow bemused as he sprinted past them to dot the ball down between the post. Half time Score 36-0
After the half-time talk, Ballymoney came out and began to play with more purpose. It paid dividends at first, the Ballymoney forwards scoring under the posts, and then some poor tackling from Uni saw them score again under the posts. Uni regrouped under the posts and came out fighting; the inexorable physicality of the Uni defence began to tell, soaking up everything that Ballymoney could throw at them, leading by example Jonny Dingley new to the club this year making tackle after tackle. The telling moment of the half came when Ballymoney’s forwards knocked the ball on and Tommy McLaughlin swept the ball up in full stride side stepping 3 defenders and running half the pitch to score just beside the posts. Uni continued the pressure as Jackson made a fine tackle on the Ballymoney centre and turned the ball over, and cleverly seeing the open space, chipped the ball over the oncoming Ballymoney rush defence and collecting it to score under the posts.
The last 10 minutes saw some end to end action, as Ryan Gilmore drew two defenders to unleash new comer Tony Colgan down the wing to score on his debut to rugby and for the Uni. A mistake by the Uni saw Ballymoney who, never looked like quitting, continue there onslaught of forward play with great close quarter handling they fooled the uni lads as the big prop went over the white wash in the dying moments of the game. Final Score UUC 2’s 58-21 Ballymoney 5’s.
A well deserved man of the match award goes to Jonny Dingley for his outstanding defence and ball carrying skills. And a mention to Gareth Bell the injured captain for his organisational efforts with the 2ndXV squad that has helped introduce great depth to the club.
Next week UUC 2’s look forward to welcoming newcomers Tir Chonaill to the Sam Logan Stadium at Cromore Road.