Much as it pains a Larne man to report, Ballyclare were just to strong for Portadown in the Towns Cup Final yesterday afternoon at a cold, wet and windy Ravenhill with the White Hares recording a comfortable 27 – 6 win in difficult conditions.
Ballyclare out half Robert Smith expertly orchestrated events behind a powerful Ricky Lutton inspired pack. Portadown had their moments, and may well have fared better in dry conditions, but there were too many handling errors brought about by the damp conditions and the pressure of the Ballyclare defence.
The teams swapped penalties in the first half hour to leave the score at 6 – 6 before two tries swung the game firmy in Ballyclare’s favour.
What looked like a sliced kick, by Ballyclare’s Smith, landed sweetly in the breadbasket of the on running Stewart Cusick who brought play infield to set up a powerful drive from flanker Paul Robinson who battled all the way all the way to the line. You can see the full sequence in our photo gallery, but it was some effort from from Robertson who subsequently left the field, either through exhaustion or due to a bang on the head as he slid towards the line.
Smith added the extras and minutes later he slotted over another penalty to extend Ballyclare’s lead to ten points. In a truly decisive finish to the first half the third best club in East Antrim took a firm grip on the trophy as hooker Matthew Coulter was driven over at the back of a maul, following an attacking scrum, to give Ballyclare a 21 – 6 lead at the break.
Ballyclare’s Smith carefully controlled the game in the second half keeping Portadown pinned in their own half.
The pressure yielded two further penalties before Portadown raised their game for a late flourish, breaking from deep for a couple of runs into the Ballyclare danger zone. However a late yellow card denied their efforts and with no further score the game ended with a 27 – 6 win for Ballyclare.
Ballyclare: G Clotworthy, S Cusick, R Reid, J McBride, M Kirk, R Smith, A Eastop,R Henderson, M Coulter, R Lutton, R Boyd, G Bartley, P Robinson, G Weatherup, D Clarke. Replacements: D Jones, R Scott, A Playfair, N Lawther, O Kirk
Portadown: L Ashton, C Megarity, J Matchett, J Holden, C Woods, M Adamson, B Forristal, M Henderson, P Lamb, M Wilson, W Graham, M Muldrew, G Hall, J Taylor, D O’Kane. Replacements: M Davison, L McClure, T Johnston, A Abraham, D Whitten
Picture credit – Bob Given Photography & John McMurtry