Ballyclare off to Ravenhill for Towns' Cup showdown

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ALL roads lead to Ravenhill for fans of Ballyclare Rugby Club on Easter Monday afternoon for the Towns' Cup final against City of Derry II, writes GEORGE BROWN.

Bob Young's lads booked their place in the showpiece match with a hard-fought 19-13 win over Omagh at Mellon Park on Saturday, where they came from behind to secure victory.

Cheered on by a massive home crowd, Omagh dominated the early stages, and only heroic defending prevented them from scoring from a scrum and a line-out.

Ballyclare were finding it difficult to get out of their own territory, so it came as no surprise when the hosts opened the scoring in the 10th minute, when their impressive number eight, Ferguson, crossed for a try that David Ward converted from the touchline.

The White Hare lads made the most of their limited attacking moves, and, indeed, scored in each of their three incursions into the home 22 during the first half.

Fly-half Niall Lawther opened his side's account with a solo score that Robert Smith goaled to edge the visitors ahead.

The 'Clare scrum had been under pressure, but they managed to regain control, and two breaks by centre David Clarke stretched the defence.

Clarke, however, eventually made the incisive run that led to winger Nathan Loughlin crossing for an unconverted score.

Now five points ahead, Ballyclare kept driving forward and when Stuart Cusack burst into the 22, his centre partner Clarke was there to collect, and go in for a try that Smith goaled for a half time 19-7 lead.

During the interval Ballyclare fans wondered whether the 12-point cushion would be enough and after the re-start Omagh soon set about reducing the deficit.

Only superb defending by the back row trio - Willie Logan, Gary Weatherup and Michael Rainey - and centres Clarke and Cusack, prevented Omagh from gaining vital scores.

Home scoring was restricted to a brace of Ward penalties. And with one converted score needed to secure a home win, Omagh surged forward but were denied by superb tackles by Gary Weatherup and Graham McKinstry.

During a period of late pressure Mark Weatherup and Rainey threatened to increase the lead, while Smith was just short with a long-range penalty.

A few years ago Ballyclare defeated the Derry 1st XV after a replay in the final, so hopes are high of silverware returning to The Cloughan this season.

On their way to the final Ballyclare defeated Ards II 45-0, Donaghadee 8-3, Dromore 21-3 and Omagh 19-13.

Ballyclare: Robert Smith; Mark Weatherup, David Clarke, Stuart Cusack, Nathan Loughlin; Niall Lawther, Colin Morrow; Alan Boyd, Mo Finlay (Tony Turner), Rory Henderson, Graham McKinstry, Robert Boyd, Willie Logan, Gary Weatherup, Michael Rainey.

Because of Ballyclare's involvement in the Towns' Cup final, Easter Saturday's league fixture with Larne is likely to be postponed.

The club's 3rd XV picked up much-needed Junior League Section 2 points with a 23-3 win against Portadown III at Chambers Park.

Two Ivor Baine penalties gave the visitors a 6-0 lead at the turnaround followed by scores from Jason Geerish, Michael Crothers and Andy Watson, with Baine adding a conversion, while Ports were restricted to a lone penalty.

Saturday's fixtures: 2nd XV v Banbridge III, home; 3rd XV v Malone III, home.