Late scores by Paul Robinson and Bobby Smith secured a hard-earned 27-23 Conference League victory for Ballyclare against Ballynahinch II.
Gary Weatherup’s men rose to the occasion at Ballymacarn Park, after trailing by 10 points midway through the second session.
Both teams had points on the board after only three minutes. First up were Ballyclare with a Smith penalty straight from the kick-off, but the hosts replied with an unconverted score.
With the strong wind in their favour the White Hare men had the edge and regained the lead when full-back Adam Butler joined the line and showed his would-be tacklers a clean pair of heels speeding in for a score that was goaled by Smith.
The home side always threatened with ball in hand and one of their centres cut through following a scrum on the 22, to leave Ballyclare leading 13-10 at the turnaround.
Ballyclare’s pack turned in one of their best performances of the season. The front row – David Lawther, David Chambers and Al Boyd – gave their opposite numbers a hard time at scrum time, while Robert Boyd and Adam Neil both took clean ball at the lineout.
Jordan McKinstry impressed in attack and defence, while Robert Boyd and Willie Logan made the hard yards with open-side flanker Paul Robinson the star; he was involved in everything, and stole the ball on several occasions.
In the second session ‘Hinch were soon back in front with two long-range penalties, and it looked ominous for the visitors when a converted try took them in to a 23-13 lead.
An injury to a home player, and no replacements permitted in this competition, left them a man short and allowed Ballyclare to stage a recovery.
Logan powered off the base of a scrum before off-loading to Robinson, who broke through two tackles before crossing for a score that Smith converted to make it 23-20.
A heavy shower didn’t help Ballyclare’s cause, but turnover ball allowed centre Gary Clotworthy to break, draw the cover, and put Smith in for the winning try, which he also converted to take his personal tally to 17 points.
Saturday’s fixture is another Conference League match with Belfast Harlequins II the visitors to The Cloughan. This will be followed by a Towns’ Cup first-round tie against Ballymena II at Eaton Park on January 2.
Scores by Ross Scott (2) and Michael Kirk clinched a 19-0 win for the 2nd XV against Larne II at The Cloughan,