Bad Day at Ballymena

A.I.L. –  Old Wesley 0  Ballymena 48

After a four week break Old Wesley returned to AIL action with a visit to Ballymena. But it was a bad day as Old Wesley were comprehensively beaten 48-0 in a disappointing encounter.

Played on a soft pitch but in a rare spell of dry weather Old Wesley were on the back foot right from the start as Ballymena had the better of the opening encounters. Indeed the home side was on the score sheet after just five minutes with a try by Callum Patterson converted by Andrew McGrath. Soon after the restart a break by Wesley out half Alan Large looked promising but it came to naught and it was his opposite number McGrath who extended the lead with a penalty goal. For the rest of the first half Ballymena monopolised possession and continued to look dangerous regularly breaking the Wesley defence. By contrast Old Wesley seemed to be running up against a brick wall on the rare occasion they had possession. The pressure eventually told when winger Jordan Foster crossed for the Northerner’s second try and it was now starting to go pear shaped for the visitors. A fine break by David Shanahan came up just short of the Wesley goal line but 24 times capped Ulster flanker Clive Ross was on hand to score from the quick ruck ball. Then just before half time influential winger Foster crossed for his second and Ballymena’s fourth try. The half time score was 24 nil to the Ulstermen and it was now obvious that it was going to be a long and hard afternoon for Old Wesley.

Wesley started the second half with a little more gusto with Large and Captain Ian Cassidy taking on the opposition, however they failed to capitalise with any scores. By contract once the opposition regained possession they counterattacked with ease. Wesley looked to have halted a strong Ballymena attack however the referee awarded a penalty try for an off the ball tackle. Wesley responded and gained some good attacking positions inside the Ballymena 22. Rory Stynes eventually crossed the Ballymena line but the ball was held up. There was a glimpse of hope for Wesley when Ballymena centre Patterson was shown a yellow card for a ruck infringement, but even down to 14 men the northerners were unbreakable and even rubbed salt in the wound by scoring a try during the same period. Old Wesley were awarded a number of late penalties in the opposition half. They bravely kicked to touch or ran the ball but once again they were unable to cross the whitewash. A try by the hosts in the last play of the match summed up an afternoon that Old Wesley will want to quickly put behind them.

To be fair this brave Old Wesley side never dropped the heads even against an opposition that contained two full Ulster capped players and a number of Ulster Academy players. There were good sparks of play from Mark Rowley, Iain McGann and new recruit Victor Ball, with Rory Stynes, as ever, solid under the high ball and not afraid to counterattack. Old Wesley must now regroup before next week’s meeting with table toppers St. Mary’s.

Old Wesley team: Rory Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, James Nolan, Ger Finucane, Paul Harte, Alan Large, Ian Cassidy [Capt], Davy Henshaw, Craig Telford, Oltian Dervishi, Iain McGann, Victor Ball, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.  Subs: David Rowley, James Burton, Matthew Bursey, Adam Kennedy, Michael McLoughlin.

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