After being almost down and out Ballyclare recovered to record a bonus-point win against Carrick at The Cloughan.
Bob Young’s Qualifying League Section 2 pace-setters were expected to ease to a comfortable win in the East Antrim derby, but halfway through the second half a shock result was on the cards.
At that stage Carrick led 15-8 with home skipper Robert Boyd a passenger after receiving a shoulder injury, but a fracas involving quite a number of players seemed to regalvanise the White Hare men, who ran in three late tries for a comprehensive 29-15 triumph.
Coach Young had to make several changes in the back division owing to the absence of Robert Smith, Gareth Byers, Nathan Loughlin and David Crawford.
Niall Lawther was restored to the fly-half position to partner Colin Morrow, while Paul Morrow and Jonny Reid linked at centre, with James Greer and Michael Kirk (normally a wing-forward) on the wings.
Carrick impressed in the early stages and soon were six points ahead when fly-half Whittle kicked two penalties.
Niall Lawther opened Ballyclare’s account when he followed up his own kick and darted over in the corner, from where Colin Morrow was unable to convert.
At this stage skipper Boyd suffered a shoulder injury that hampered his usual bustling style in the loose, and after Morrow and Whittle swapped penalties Carrick turned round leading 9-8.
When Whittle added two more penalties during the third quarter Ballyclare seemed to be heading for a shock defeat, but after the mass brawl that resulted in two Carrick players and one from Ballyclare being sent to the sin-bin, they took control.
Another Niall Lawther deep kick led to his brother David getting his name on the scorecard, and when Morrow added the extras the scores were level at 15-15.
Boyd eventually was forced to retire, but even in his absence Ballyclare were now rampant, with Gary Weatherup and Greer adding late scores that Morrow goaled to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Ballyclare: G Clotworthy; J Greer, J Reid, P Morrow, M Kirk; N Lawther, C Morrow; A Boyd, A Wylie, D Lawther, G McKinstry, R Boyd (C), G Weatherup, J McKinstry, W Logan.
The match was sponsored by Danske Bank, Ballyclare, and the ball was supplied by Cordion, Ltd.
For the second week in succession Tony Turner scored a hat-trick of tries for the 4th XV who got the better of Lisburn III 33-12 at The Cloughan.
Turner’s first half brace had his side leading 14-0 at the interval, and he duly completed his treble in the second session.
Even without influential wing forward Mark Weatherup who retired with a knee injury, further scores were added by Simon Milton and Man of the Match Clarke McCartney, while John Wasson’s four conversions completed the scoring.
Skipper Mark Fox said that it was a fine team performance that lifted his side in to the top half of the Junior League Section 5 table.
Youth Rugby against Coleraine.
Under 17s lost 44-12; the Under 15s lost 19-5; the Under 13s lost 51-24.
On Saturday the Ballyclare senior side faces a dour battle when they travel to Mellon Park to take on title challengers, Omagh.
A club official stated, “If we manage to beat Omagh on their own patch our promotion aspirations will soar. On the other hand a defeat will bring Omagh back in to the reckoning, so this is a crucial fixture.”
After having had hospital treatment for his injured shoulder injury skipper Robert Boyd will be sidelined for a few weeks, so his place at lock is likely to be taken by Matthew Dailly.