Larne Grammar’s winning run came to an end with a 21- 17 defeat by Ballyclare High on Friday afternoon at Ballyclare’s Rashee Road playing fields.
The visitors appeared to have the game in the bag, with an impressive first half, but a second half comeback by the home side, coupled with the kicking of Mark Jackson and Alex McVicker, secured the win in this entertaining encounter.
I came away from the game with the feeling that Larne had lost this one rather than Ballyclare winning but, with three tries apiece, it was just one of those games that could have went either way.
Larne enjoyed the better of the first half as their pack dominated the breakdown and Ballyclare looked a bit reticent to get involved. The hard working Micah Stevenson crossed from close range out wide after a period of sustained pressure.
The conversion was missed, but at the time, it didn’t appear to be an issue as Larne were on the front foot and looked likely to run up a hat full of scores.
Sure enough fellow prop Aaron Galagher crossed less than ten minutes later, battling through a forest of defenders to hit the line. Despite the inappropriate protestations of a petulant supporter the try stood and Larne looked good value for their 0 – 10 lead.
Having over-complicated their moves for most of the first half Ballyclare finally hit the right note with their impressive centre Lewis Shaw breaking from deep to score. Crucially, this one was converted, by Mark Jackson, and the teams turned round with Larne defending a three point lead, scant reward for their first half play.
However Jason Ward crossed for Larne shortly after the restart and, with Euan Glenn adding the conversion, their ten point lead was quickly restored.
Larne then appeared to step off the pace and Ballyclare upped their efforts considerably, their positional kicking starting to reap some rewards. Fittingly, for their much more expansive game, both wingers crossed for the home side late in the second half. McVicker crossing on the right before a weaving run by Ben Dixon saw him romp home on the left.
McVicker converted both and Ballyclare now led 21 – 17 with just over five minutes left.
Larne pushed hard for the winning score with Jack Withers, Stevenson and Lee McKee to the fore. However Ballyclare defended resolutely and, despite a couple of last minute scares, they held own to claim the bragging rights in East Antrim.
Final Score: Ballyclare High 21 Larne Grammar 17.
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