Ballyclare Rugby Club’s senior side went down 25-18 to Portadown in Qualifying 1 on Saturday, despite holding a half-time lead.
Coach Mike McKeever’s side got off to a poor start when their line-out malfunctioned, allowing the visitors to gather the ball and cross for the opening unconverted score.
Trevor McClintock then broke clear to put winger Stuart Cusack in for a score in the corner. Gary Clotworthy’s conversion attempt bounced agonisingly off the crossbar back in to play.
The hosts carried the momentum into the second quarter, and from another ruck the ball was swept across the backs for Clotworthy to score his side’s second unconverted try.
Clotworthy was in the spotlight again when he landed a long range penalty to stretch the lead to 13-5, but just before the break Portadown exploited a three-man overlap to reduce the deficit to a single point at 13-12.
Portadown started the second session brightly and they roared into a commanding 22-13 lead with two more unconverted touchdowns.
The White Hare men recovered some ground Ryan Tweed finished off a fluent back move to cross in the corner. This time Clotworthy’s conversion attempt hit the upright.
Portadown completed the scoring with a late penalty, making it an unhappy start to the season with back-to-back defeats for Gary Weatherup’s side.
Ballyclare: K James; R Tweed, G Clotworthy, D Clarke, S Cusack; N Lawther, C Morrow; D Lawther, M Finlay, A Boyd, T McClintock, A Neill, G Weatherup(C), P Robinson, W Logan. Replacements: R Scott, J McKinstry.
Club’s Men of the Match: Stuart Cusack (backs) and Paul Robinson (forwards).
next up: Cooke (away).
Mark Fox’s 4th XV got their season off to a winning start with a 57-7 win against Instonians III in a Junior League fixture, with veteran fly-half John Wasson contributing 17 points.
Meanwhile, last season’s Ulster Youth XV Player of The Year Aaron Hall added to his impressive rugby CV on Saturday when he was honoured with the captaincy of the Ulster U18 side as they started their inter-pro fixtures.
The powerful Number eight was joined in the squad by Ballyclare team-mate Matthew Coulter. Unfortunately the Ulster U18s lost 15-8 to Connacht U18 at Rainey RFC.