A seven-try rout against Ards II secured a Qualifying 1 bonus point and lifted Ballyclare up to third spot in the table.
Three first-half scores had the east Antrim side nine points ahead at the interval; then followed a one-way traffic second session with Gary Weatherup’s men adding four unanswered touchdowns to finish massive 41-8 winners.
Coach Mike McKeever had to make several enforced changes in the pack with Paul Robinson returning as flanker alongside Ryan Tweed who moved to number eight, while Willie Rea and Dave Chambers started in the front row. However, he was able to retain the same attacking back line that had performed so well against Omagh the previous week.
Only four minutes were on the watch when Robinson opened the scoring with a try that Gareth Byers converted, but Ards soon opened their account with an unconverted score in the corner.
Ryan Tweed restored Ballyclare’s seven-point advantage when he emerged from the back of a driving ruck for an unconverted score. But the Down men replied almost immediately with a penalty, reducing the deficit to 12-8.
Just before the turnaround strong-running winger, JJ Baird, raced in for another five points in the corner, ensuring that Ballyclare carried a 17-8 lead in to the second half.
Centre David Clarke clinched the valued bonus point when he crossed under the posts for a score that was goaled by Byers. However, he was unable to repeat the performance from a difficult angle when he completed a fine passing move by the backs to join the line for a touchdown in the corner.
Leading 29-8 going in to the final quarter, the White Hare men kept the hosts penned in their own quarters, resulting in Tweed scoring his second try which Robert Smith converted. Prop Al Boyd, who had a super game, completed the scoring with the seventh try that was not goaled.
The win leaves Ballyclare in third and in with a chance of qualifying for the All-Ireland Junior Cup, but Portadown and Clogher Valley have matches in hand, so McKeever’s men will want to win Saturday’s final home game of the season against Cooke to keep their Cup aspirations alive.
Ballyclare: G Byers, J Greer, S Cusick, D Clarke, JJ Baird; G Clotworthy, T McGookin; W Rea, D Chambers, A Boyd, W Logan, R Boyd, G Weatherup (C), P Robinson, R Tweed. Replacements: R Smith and M Stevenson.
The 2nd XV went down 20-18 to Bangor II at The Cloughan, where two Andy Watson penalties were overshadowed by a converted try and a penalty, gave the Seasiders a 10-6 lead at the break. Second-half scores by Michael Kirk and Watson couldn’t prevent another narrow Junior League defeat.
The 3rd and 4th XVs returned empty-handed from Lisburn and Lurgan respectively.