It was one of the only club games in East Antrim which survived Saturday’s deluge as Ballyclare 2nd XV progressed to the next round of the Crawford Cup – but only after surviving a late surge by Omagh II.
Chris Coburn’s men turned round 13-0 up, but they were glad to hear the final whistle while they were defending their 20-17 lead.
This first-round tie was scheduled to be played in Omagh, but after having been postponed twice owing to Mellon Park being waterlogged, it was switched to The Cloughan.
The hosts started promisingly, with wing-forward Matthew Robson opening the scoring after he broke smartly off the side of a ruck and dived over for a score that was converted by Andy Watson, who later added a penalty.
Play continued to be in Omagh territory approaching the interval, but all the hosts had to show for their territorial advantage was another Watson penalty which gave his side a 13-0 lead at the break.
When Ballyclare added another converted try it seemed like they would coast to the next round. Centre Michael Kirk did the spadework with a sprint from his own half to the 22, where he passed to James Greer who went in at the posts to make Watson’s conversion a formality.
Then came the Omagh resurgence. A driving maul led to them reducing the deficit to 20-5 and they went on to add a second against the run of play.
Coburn’s driving run looked promising until an unexpected turnover led to the ball being hacked through for an Omagh player to win the race for the touchdown and when the extras were added it was game on with the score 20-12.
Omagh had the momentum and a dropped pass allowed the visitors to steal another try in the dying minutes but the game ended with Ballyclare hanging on to their three points’ advantage.
Ballyclare’s reward is a trip to Banbridge III in the next round on January 2.
Ballyclare II: S Bailie; J Greer, M Kirk, JJ Baird, A Ottey; T McGookin, A Watson; W Rea, R Scott, D Tweed, M Stevenson, A Neill; J McKinstry, M Robson, C Coburn (C). Replacements: N Kirk, J Poole, D Crawford.
Saturday’s fixtures: 1st XV v Ballynahinch II, away, Conference League; 2nd XV v Larne II, home; 3rd XV v Carrick III, away.