Ballyclare Rugby Club will host Dromore in the quarter-finals of the Towns’ Cup (Feb 23) after a Mark Weatherup try and a Robert Smith penalty helped see off Donaghadee on Saturday.
Having won their previous five Qualifying League Section 1 outings, Donaghadee came to The Cloughan as firm favourites, but finished on the wrong end of an 8-3 scoreline against their Qualifying 2 opponents.
With Colly Morrow unavailable, Adam Wardrop came in at scrum-half, otherwise Bob Young was able to field an unchanged side, and with the advantage of a slight breeze, they dominated the opening 12 minutes.
This culminated in the younger Weatherup, winger Mark, cutting inside where he was pushed over the line by the pack for the opening score almost beside the posts. But Smith, who is normally clinical with the boot, somehow managed to fluff the conversion attempt.
Fly-half Niall Lawther and Wardrop established a fine working relationship, and both kicked accurately to keep the ‘Dee in their own quarters for most of the game.
Fine defensive work prevented Ballyclare from turning round much further than 5-0 ahead, while the County Down lads managed to reach the home 22 only twice in the first-half.
Skipper Lawther and impressive centre, David Clarke, combined effectively, and when Clarke drove through the midfield he earned a penalty on the half-way line, from where Smith’s fine kick from 50 metres fell just under the bar.
Even when in defensive positions Ballyclare continued to move the ball wide, but the ‘Dee defence held out while their number eight, David Thompson, continued to pose problems for the home back row trio - Gary Weatherup, Willie Logan and Michael Rainey.
When prop Rory Henderson and number eight Rainey were injured, they were replaced by Rodney Hall and Paul Morrow, but still the home side had the edge.
When ‘Dee secured a line-out near the line, Graham McKinstry managed to steal the ball to avert the danger, but in a later attack a penalty was conceded and Paul Blewitt reduced the deficit.
When Al Boyd picked up a yellow card, Donaghadee seized the opportunity to press in the final 10 minutes, and from one scrum only heroic defending prevented them from getting what would have been a winning score.
Overall, this was a superb team performance. Winger Mark Weatherup had his best game since being promoted to the senior side earlier this season, while Clarke at centre, Wardrop at scrum-half and the back row trio all made impressive contributions.
Ballyclare: R Smith; M Weatherup, D Clarke, S Cusack, N Loughlin; N Lawther (C), A Wardrop; A Boyd, A Wylie, R Henderson (D Hall), R Boyd, G McKinstry, G Weatherup, W Logan, M Rainey (P Morrow).