Ballyclare claimed a Qualifying League Section 1 rugby scalp last Saturday, while advancing to the second round of the Junior Cup.
Last season Bob Young’s lads defeated five Qualifying 1 sides, so by getting the better of Cooke in a 26-10 win, the omens are promising for the current season under new skipper Robert Boyd.
The hosts were always in control at The Cloughan, where after turning round 12 points up they cruised to a merited victory. Their reward is a second-round home tie against Omagh.
In excellent conditions before a sizeable crowd, Ballyclare played an open running game, despite making five changes from the previous outing.
In came Jonny Reid and Robert Stevenson for David Clarke and Adam Wardrop at centre and scrum-half respectively, while in the pack David Lawther, Andy Wylie and Graham McKinstry replaced Mo Finlay, Ian Holmes and Michael Stevenson.
The accurate out-of-hand kicking by full-back Robert Smith was a feature of the game, and from one almost set Jordan McKinstry through. Soon after, scrum-half Stevenson fared better when he nipped over from a line-out for an unconverted try.
The hosts continued to impress, and when wing-forward Gary Weatherup broke out of his own 22, he set up a score for Smith who also added the extras.
Cooke responded with an unconverted try, but approaching the interval winger Gareth Byers took a pass from Reid to score in the corner.
Smith’s conversion from the touchline left Ballyclare deservedly leading 19-5 at the break.
The visitors bossed the opening 10 minutes of the second session, but with Jordan McKinstry, Graham McKinstry, Willie Logan and Colin Morrow prominent in defence, they failed to cross the home line.
Overall, Ballyclare still had the major share of attacking play, and eventually fly-half Morrow, who continues to deputise for the injured Niall Lawther, increased the lead with a touchdown that was goaled by Byers.
However, the city lads had the final say when Gourley evaded three half-hearted tackles en route to his side’s second score. In a rousing finish Cooke were camped in home territory where they were awarded three penalties, but deciding to take a scrum on each occasion proved to be the wrong option against a well-drilled home pack.
Ballyclare: R Smith; G Byers, J Reid, D Clarke, J Greer; C Morrow, R Stevenson; A Boyd, A Wylie, D Lawther, R Boyd (C), G McKinstry, J McKinstry, G Weatherup, W Logan.
Man of the Match, sponsored by Eddie Laird: Robert Smith. The match was sponsored by Andy Wylie and Gareth Johnston, and the ball was supplied by Laurence Caldwell.
Clare 4th XV soundly
defeated by Carrick
After only five minutes winger Mark Weatherup had to retire injured, leaving Ballyclare 4th XV with only 14 men for the remainder of the clash with Carrick III, who ran out comprehensive 58-15 winners.
Clare scorers in this Junior League fixture were Tony Turner and James Logan, with Stephen Bailie contributing a conversion and a penalty.
This weekend’s fixtures: 1st v Limavady, away, Q2; 2nd XV v Carrick II, home.
Elsewhere, Ophir RFC take on PSNI at Magowan Park in Group A of the Gordon West Cup.