Donaghadee 22-17 Ballymoney: Donaghadee Remain Top of the League!
The largest crowd of the season to date turned out at Donaldson Park in windy conditions, to see Donaghadee maintain their unbeaten run and remain at the top of Ulster’s Junior leagues, after a victory against Ballymoney.
After a disjointed start to the game with a couple of injury stoppages, it was Ballymoney who took the lead with a well taken penalty in the 15th minute. The first quarter of the game saw two very physical defences come out on top and in many ways cancelling out each other’s attacking play. It was not surprising therefore that it took something a little special to create the first real try scoring opportunity. On the 30th minute Alastair Lockhart spotted a gap and instead of feeding his backline made a dart on his own and after gaining 25 yards fed the ball to the supporting Andrew Findlater whose attacking angle was perfect. Although he had the option of Dee fullback Billy Allen on his outside, he did not need him and crashed over the line to give the Dee the advantage. Santos kicked a difficult conversion to give Donaghadee a 7-3 lead.
On the 35th minute Donaghadee stretched their lead courtesy of a fine try from Kenny McCombe. McCombe had been Donaghadee’s most threatening attacker before he picked the ball up from the back of a maul and before Ballymoney’s defensive line had time to form he handed off one defender and sprinted 40 yards to score under the posts, to allow Santos to nudge over the conversion giving Dee a 14-3 half time lead.
Ballymoney started the 2nd half with a renewed hunger and determination and it took only two minutes of the half for them to capitalise on this early pressure, their tight head prop touching down under after being supplied from close range. The conversion was successful to reduce the deficit to four points only.
If there were any neutrals at Donaldson Park on Saturday I can only imagine this was a hugely enjoyable contest to watch. Ballymoney have been playing at this top level of junior rugby for many years and this experience and style of rugby was remarkably different to any challenge Donaghadee have come up against this season.
Donaghadee however have their own brand of experience, with the average Dee player having played 1st XV rugby for this side for an average of five years. This camaraderie brings out a character in players that cannot be coached but is a valuable trait to any team with aspirations at this level.
Donaghadee, now playing with the wind at their back, re-established their composure and dominated possession after Ballymoney’s early score with Paul Hamilton, Chris Good and Chris Scolfield all performing particularly well in open play. It was during a period of being reduced to fourteen men that Donaghadee scored their third try of the game. Lockhart went on a trademark dart and although his route was cluttered with Ballymoney defenders he fended these players off and powered over the line in the clubhouse corner to rapturous applause. Santos narrowly missed the conversion.
Within four minutes of the restart Ballymoney brought themselves right back into this contest with a try in the most unusual fashion. In a frantic turnover in the middle of the pitch the Ballymoney No.8 legally stole the ball from the Donaghadee attacker and as the Dee men were still trying to figure out where the ball had gone the energetic Ballymoney man was running unopposed to score under the posts to bring the scores to 19-17.
Donaghadee placed some late pressure on the Ballymoney defense but in the end there was to be no bonus point fourth try, however a final Santos penalty with the last kick of the game made the final score Donaghadee 22, Ballymoney 17.
This win means that Donaghadee have won their first five games in the Kukri Qualifying One League and top this league with 23 points. This has been a remarkable effort from all those involved within the playing and coaching set-up and an effort that continues to raise the profile of the club in the most positive way.
Scoops Man of the Match In what was a dogged performance by Donaghadee which brought the very credible performances from the entire team, most notably from Gareth Gordon and try scorer Kenny McCombe the game ultimately benefited from the creativeness of Donaghadee scrum-half Alastair Lockhart who set-up the first try of the game and scored the decisive points via his own try on the 70th minute.
Donaghadee team vs. Ballymoney (15-9) Billy Allen, Andrew Findlater, Bobby Harpur (c), Nigel Barker, Chris McGivern (Ian Martindale), Ricardo Santos, Alastair Lockhart; (1-8) Chris Schofield, Gareth Gordon, Chris Good, Kalave Aualiitia, David Thompson, Paul Hamilton, Kenny McCombe (Andrew Faulkner), Richard Martindale.
This Weekend's Fixtures: Donaghadee 1st XV vs. Clogher Valley (Away – 2.30PM KO) Donaghadee 2nd & 3rd XV home to Bangor
Events: Friday 28th October – Jamie at Home Event – Clubhouse 7.30pm start. Come along for a fun filled evening! Foodie themed table quiz with great prizes.
Saturday 29th October – Halloween night at the Club – 6pm till Late. Come along and enjoy the Halloween festivities. Something for everyone in the Ghost and Ghouls event.