BALLYCLARE Rugby Club got their season off to a 33-6 winning start in Lisburn, but were denied a bonus point.
Having scored three tries and being well on top following a home player having been red-carded, the bonus point seemed a formality, until the referee called a halt to proceedings with 10 minutes remaining on the stopwatch.
However, coach Bob Young was pleased with his side’s performance even without four of last season’s regulars - Niall Lawther, Mark Weatherup, Stuart Cusack in the back division and Graham McKinstry in the pack.
In came winger James Greer straight from the Ballyclare High School 1st XV, Ian Holmes at hooker, Jordan McKinstry at wing forward, lock Michael Stevenson, centre David Crawford and scrum-half Adam Wardrop all from the 2nd XV.
In the absence of Lawther, normal scrum-half Colly Morrow switched to number 10 where he established a fine partnership with Wardrop.
However, the outstanding performance came from Robert Smith who didn’t miss a kick all afternoon while contributing 18 points.
In his first competitive outing since being nominated captain, Robert Boyd led from the front at lock, with some inspired play in the loose exchanges.
It was the hosts who were first on to the scorecard with a penalty by Crothers, but this was immediately cancelled out by Smith in like fashion.
A break on the right wing by Gareth Byers resulted in all the backs handling before young Greer marked his debut with a touchdown on the opposite flank.
Smith converted this one and then added his second penalty to give his side a healthy 13-3 lead at the break, with Lisburn down to 13 players following the issue of two yellow cards.
Early in the second session a Gary Weatherup run resulted in the hosts being penalised, and Smith converted this one and then added another to stretch the lead to 19-3.
A Crothers penalty doubled Lisburn’s tally but that was as good as it got. Play was now almost entirely in and around the home 22, and eventually Weatherup sprinted in without a hand being laid on him, before Holmes benefited from another Weatherup thrust to keep the White Hare lads on course for that much valued bonus point.
Smith completed the scoring by adding the two conversions, and just before the premature final whistle Greer and Davy Crawford were held up short of the line.
Ballyclare: R Smith; G Byers, D Crawford, D Clarke, J Greer; C Morrow, A Wardrop; R Boyd, I Holmes, M Finlay, R Boyd (C), M Stevenson, G Weatherup. J McKinstry, W Logan.
On Saturday Ballyclare entertain Qualifying 1 side Cooke in the first round of the Junior Cup.