Seniors vs Ballymena (4-11-2017)

BALLYMENA 34 UCC 35, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Angus Kernohan 2, James Taggart, Connor Smyth; Cons: Brett Herron 4; Pens: Brett Herron 2
UCC: Tries: Richard Walsh, Daire Feeney, Penalty try, Murray Linn; Cons: James Taylor 2, Penalty try con; Pens: James Taylor 3

HT: Ballymena 13 UCC 15

UCC remain hot on the heels of the top four after pipping Ballymena in an absorbing eight-try encounter at Eaton Park. Centre Murray Linn’s 63rd-minute try, coupled with James Taylor’s third successful penalty, saw the Cork students prevail despite a late rally from the hosts.

Ballymena touched down late in both halves, including tries in the 80th and 84th minutes which earned them two bonus points, but it was not enough to derail the visitors who have now won three matches on the trot after a difficult start to the season.

Out-halves Brett Herron and Taylor traded penalties inside the first six minutes before UCC right winger Richard Walsh caught Taylor’s beautifully-struck cross-field kick for a 11th minute try – his second score in the space of a week.

Ulster young gun Herron replied with his second penalty from far out, but the home side failed to score from a period of intense pressure deep in UCC territory. Indeed, when an attack broke down, the visitors’ openside flanker Daire Feeney picked up possession and charged clear for a superb solo try, with Ballymena guilty of some poor tackling. UCC were now 15-6 to the good.

Two points was the margin at the break, though, as the Braidmen bounced back with teenage centre Angus Kernohan’s first league score. The Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain chipped ahead and profited from UCC full-back Alex Molloy’s failure to control the ball as he swooped in for a try converted by Herron.

The lead changed hands early on the resumption, a bout of pressure from the Ballymena forwards ending with hooker James Taggart crashing over, before UCC hit back with a penalty try via a lineout drive for a 22-20 scoreline.

The scores suddenly dried up for Andy Graham’s side, though, as UCC built some crucial momentum in the middle part of the second half. Taylor increased his influence with two well-struck penalties, either side of Linn’s try from some hard straight running from the backs. The extras were added by Taylor, the former CBC starlet, who now has an impressive 67 points to his name after six rounds.

In the last few minutes, Ballymena suddenly looked revitalised as lock Connor Smyth and Kernohan both crossed the whitewash in quick succession and Herron swept over the two conversions. However, time ran out on their comeback bid as the Braidmen, who lost by one point and two points in last season’s two clashes with the students, fell to their fourth defeat of the current campaign.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Dean Reynolds, Angus Kernohan, Glenn Baillie, Jonny Rosborough; Brett Herron, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, James Taggart, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea, Matthew Agnew, Stephen Mulholland.

Replacements: Andrew Ferguson, Scott Agnew, Mark Foster, Joe Thompson, Matthew Norris.

UCC: Alex Molloy; Richard Walsh, Cian Bohane, Murray Linn, James Kiernan; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, John Hodnett, Rob O’Donovan, Cian Barry, Darragh Moloney, Ben Mitchell, Daire Feeney, Ryan Murphy (capt).

Replacements: Tadhg McCarthy, Bryan O’Connor, Jack O’Sullivan, Paul Kiernan, Rory Slater.