RUGBY: McKeever’s men face a big test at Instonians

Ballyclare coach Mike McKeever
Ballyclare coach Mike McKeever

This weekend Ballyclare RFC’s senior side will be hoping to remain on course for a trip to the Kingspan Stadium when they travel to Shaw’s Bridge for a Junior Cup quarter-final tie.

However, they will be dubbed underdogs against Instonians who are the holders of this prestigious trophy, and coach Mike McKeever already has a few selection headaches to contend with.

With Colin Morrow, Andrew Butler, Paul Robinson, Robert Boyd, Niall Lawther and Michael Rainey all missing from Saturday’s line-up, he will be hoping injuries picked up by Gary Clotworthy and R Scott are not serious.

“A place in the last four awaits, but this will be a tough assignment,” said club official David Campbell.

An understrength ‘Clare side struggled to record their fifth Qualifying League Section 1 win against CIYMS at Belmont in glorious autumn sunshine and they had to survive a nervy finish before securing the 14-12 win against the a city side still without a win.

McKeever had to make several enforced changes but Ballyclare with the wind in their favour were soon ahead with two Robert Smith penalties. However, the hosts reduced the deficit with a well-worked try from a lineout-maul combination.

When Logan made a break 30 metres out, he linked with skipper Gary Weatherup who put Tweed in for a score in the corner. Smith’s conversion attempt rebounded off the upright, so Ballyclare turned round well worth their 11-5 lead.

The home kicker had been off target with a couple of penalties in the first half and he missed again just after the interval but Smith did better when he slotted over his third to make it 14-5.

With the elements in their favour, CI dominated the final quarter and reduced the gap to two points with a converted score. There was a nail-biting finish for the travelling support, but the defence held out to make it five wins from seven.

Michael Stevenson starred in the pack, while Andy Watson and Stuart Cusack excelled in the backs.

At The Cloughan, Garth Johnston’s 3rd XV defeated Lisburn III. Tries by Tony Turner, JJ Baird and Luke Montgomery, plus a Montgomery conversion led to a deserved 17-5 win.

Fixtures: 1st XV v Instonians away, Junior Cup; 3rd XV v Newry II, home; 4th XV v Grosvenor III, home.