Ballyclare bounced back from their Junior Cup final defeat to significantly enhance their promotion aspirations when they saw off their chief challengers, Academy.
On a gloomy afternoon the floodlights were on for the full 80 minutes at The Cloughan, where Robert Boyd’s side had to work hard for a 20-13 Qualifying League 2 win.
The Hydepark lads opened the scoring with a Dave Kenny penalty following an offside infringement, but soon the hosts were ahead when David Clarke put winger JJ Baird in for a try that Gary Clotworthy converted from the touchline.
Baird doubled his personal tally when he took a pass from skipper Robert Boyd, and crossed for an unconverted score to make it 12-3 at the break.
Ballyclare’s centres, David Crawford and David Clarke, punched holes in the Academy defence at times and in one surge a score seemed on the cards until Al Boyd was unable to hold the pass with the line beckoning.
The visitors were well in the game and only a superb tackle by full-back Clotworthey prevented winger Carson from scoring.
The killer blow came when Wardrop, playing at scrum-half, made ground before transferring to Graham McKinstry who went over for another unconverted try.
Academy responded with a well-worked score. Scrum-half Kenny kicked a penalty to touch in the corner and from the resultant line-out the pack drove over for a score that Kenny goaled.
Ballyclare fly-half Niall Lawther calmed home nerves when he slotted over a fine dropped goal to make it 20-10.
Baird just missed out on a hat-trick when he was tackled just short of the line after Chris Coburn and Robert Boyd had done the spadework.
Academy didn’t buckle and a late Kenny penalty kept the issue in doubt, and the home defence was glad to hear the final whistle.
Ballyclare: G Clotworthy; J Greer, D Crawford, D Clarke, JJ Baird; N Lawther, A Wardrop; A Boyd, A Wylie, D Lawther, G McKinstry, R Boyd (C), G Weatherup, J McKinstry, C Coburn.
The 2nd XV had a narrow 13-11 win against Grosvenor II in Junior League Section 1
Fixtures: Carrick II v 2nd XV; 3 rd XV v City of Derry III; Lisburn III v 4th XV.