Smith’s late penalty ensures a share of spoils

Ballyclare on the attack against Clogher Valley. INNT 10-205-AM
Ballyclare on the attack against Clogher Valley. INNT 10-205-AM
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Local rugby fans were treated to a thriller at The Cloughan on Saturday as the Qualifying 1 match of the day ended all square.

Going into the final play of the afternoon Robert Boyd’s Ballyclare trailed Clogher Valley by three points, but with the last kick of an absorbing clash Robert Smith landed a penalty to make it 26-26.

Although Ballyclare had the strong wind at their backs, possession ebbed and flowed until the game sparked into life after half an hour.

Fly-half Smith intercepted a Clogher pass along their rather flat back line, off-loaded to winger Michael Kirk who sprinted 30 metres to score under the posts. It left Smith with an easy conversion.

With the visitors mainly on the defensive, they conceded two penalties, both converted by Smith to extend the lead to 13-0.

However, a Clogher rolling maul produced an unconverted score in the corner approaching the interval.

During the break home fans wondered if the eight-point lead would be enough, bearing in mind Clogher would have the elements in their favour and their fears were compounded when a scrum near the home line resulted in a converted try that reduced the lead to 13-12.

When the home pack failed to deal with another rolling maul, a converted try was conceded, putting Clogher in the driving seat at 19-13.

Smith’s third penalty reduced the deficit to three points before Willie Logan engineered a maul which led to scrum-half Andy Watson flashing the ball wide to Smith, who crossed for a try which he also goaled to put Ballyclare 23-19 ahead.

In a dramatic final five minutes the lead changed hands again. Clogher got what seemed a winning converted try, but Smith kicked a late penalty that took his personal tally to 21 points and secured the 26-26 draw.

The result means means Boyd’s lads now have to win their final fixture in Portadown (March 21) to have any chance of regaining fourth spot that would guarantee a place in the All-Ireland Junior Cup.

A hat-trick of tries by Paul Robinson helped Ballyclare II to a 42-5 win against Banbridge III. The Thirds and Fourths lost to Ards III and Armagh III.