RUGBY REVIEW: Ballyclare take share of spoils in Dromore

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An understrength Ballyclare did well to turn round just 10-0 down against Dromore, but they failed to press home their territorial advantage in the second session and had to settle for a 10-10 draw.

This Qualifying 1 fixture was played at Barban Hill, where a Stephen Bailie try, converted by Gareth Byers, who also landed a penalty, secured a deserved division of the spoils.

Having lost the earlier encounter 27-23 at The Cloughan when at full strength, the visitors knew that a tough encounter was in prospect.

Ballyclare spent most of the first half struggling to get out of their own territory, and after a period of sustained pressure Dromore opened the scoring. The home fly-half’s chip and chase produced a thrilling try and when he and skipper Gary Weatherup both dived on the ball, and in the absence of TMO, the referee raised his arm to signal the score that was converted.

Ballyclare officials were concerned about the number of penalties being conceded at the breakdown, but the home kicker was off target until just before the break when he landed one following an infringement by JJ Baird, who was yellow-carded for the offence.

Ballyclare may have started the second half a player short but Byers reduced the deficit from a penalty after the hosts had a man sin-binned.

Using their numerical advantage effectively, Weatherup’s men continued to have the edge, and after one driving maul had been foiled, Byers recycled the ball inside the 22 for his half-back partner to slip through a gap, for a score that Byers goaled to restore parity.

The White Hare men finished on the attack, but failed to get that elusive winning score.

Overall the forwards worked hard, creating dominance at scrum and line-out; the backs tackled resolutely, but just couldn’t find the gaps in the Dromore defence, so much needed three points were allowed to slip away.

Ballyclare: A Butler; JJ Baird, D Clarke, J Reid, R Tweed; S Balie, G Byers; D Lawther, R Scott, A Boyd, W Logan, R Boyd, G Weatherup (c), M Robson, D Chambers. Replacements: J McKinstry, M Stevenson.

Next up: CIYMS (h) Jan 23.

The raft of unavailability of 1st XV players had a knock-on effect with the 2nd and 3rd teams suffering heavy league defeats to Armagh II and Lurgan II respectively.