BALLYCLARE sit proudly at the summit in Qualifying League Section 2 following a fine win against Grosvenor on Saturday.
Playing on the Coulter pitch at The Cloughan, the hosts had 24 points on the board before the visitors opened their account, and Ballyclare continued to power their way to a superb 32-12 win.
Wing-forward Gary Weatherup was the star performer with a hat-trick of scores, but it was the commanding display by the back row trio - Weatherup, Willie Logan and Michael Anderson that laid the foundation for victory. They dominated at ruck and maul, denying the city side possession.
Lock forward Robert Boyd opened the scoring with his second try in consecutive matches, and soon afterwards Weatherup got his first when he crossed in the corner.
James Jackson and Rainey then carved open the defence for Weatherup to double his tally, and moments later he completed the treble when he finished off after a strong run from Logan.
Two conversions by full-back Gareth Byers had the White Hare lads 24-0 in front, before Grosvenor went in for a converted touchdown.
The hosts had the final say in a high-scoring first half, when Stuart Cusack crossed the line to give his side a 29-7 lead at the break.
The Grosvenor defence was much tighter in the second session and the home side was limited to a drop goal by fly-half Niall Lawther; while Grosvenor managed one unconverted score.
It was arguably Ballyclare’s best display of the season, and with promotion rivals Enniskillen and Bangor involved in Cup ties, Bob Young’s lads now occupy pole position in Qualifying 2.
Ballyclare: G Byers; JJ Baird, J Jackson, S Cusack, N Loughlin; N Lawther, C Morrow; A Boyd, A Wylie, R Hall, G McKinstry, R Boyd, G Weatherup, W Logan, M Rainey.
On Saturday the Larne-Ballyclare clash at Glynn will be the highlight of a gala rugby day with mini and youth rugby taking place prior to the Qualifying League local derby.
Ballyclare’s Second XV also had their hat-trick hero in Simon Reid against Clogher Valley II at Fivemiletown, where Ballyclare emerged 32-5 winners in a Junior League Section 1 fixture.
Reid scored two tries in the first session. Clarke McCartney also scored, and Robert Smith added two conversions and a penalty Ballyclare turned round 22-5 up.
After the interval, Reid crossed for his third score, and Ricky McAdam also got his name on the scorecard to complete a comprehensive win.
Ballyclare III trailed 24-0 at the break against Grosvenor II, but produced a spirited second-half display before losing out 34-19. Hooker Ross Scott grabbed the limelight with a hat-trick of touchdowns, while Andrew Alexander contributed two conversions in the Junior League fixture.
The 4th XV defeated CIYMS IV 31-13 in Ballyclare in a Junior League fixture. The try scorers were Gary Ashe, Gareth Smith, Mark Garvey, Darren Montgomery and Trevor Clarke with John Wasson adding three conversions.
The Under-19s lost 24-19 to Donegal Town at The Cloughan where the Gillan brothers, John and Billy, along with Ryan Andrews scored tries - two of which were goaled.
The club’s three youth teams were all successful against Lisburn at Blaris where the Under-13s won 61-5; the Under-15s won 54-0 and the Under-17s won 29-25.
This weekend’s fixtures: 1st XV v Larne, away; 2nd XV v Ballymoney II, home; 4th XV v Cookstown, home.