LURGAN SECONDS 27 BALLYMONEY 29
LURGAN Seconds entertained Ballymoney last Saturday and after a pulsating encounter narrowly lost by 29 points to 27.
As with the previous week, Lurgan started slowly in the face of a much bigger, stronger and more aggressive pack which disrupted Lurgan ball at the breakdown, the lineout and particularly in the scrum.
Ballymoney took an early lead with a penalty, before Lurgan struck somewhat against the run of play, the impressive Stuart Johnston expertly rounding off a slick Lurgan back line move for an unconverted try.
Just ten minutes into the game Lurgan lost influential scrum half Jason Kearney with a broken nose which required hospital attention and from then on the home side were faced with an uphill battle against a rampant Ballymoney pack.
The second half began with an unconverted try to Ballymoney, the away side using the tactic of creating a maul from a pick-and-drive at the base of the scrum to drive over the line.
Nolan immediately responded with a penalty to level the scores at 8-8, before Lurgan struck again via Gavin Collins. Lurgan responded to a period of sustained Ballymoney pressure by stealing the ball at the break down. Nolan kicked ahead and Jonny Kingham was first to secure the loose ball. Collins was on hand in support to receive the pass and drive over for a try, duly converted by Nolan.
The end-to-end nature of this enthralling game soon became clear as Ballymoney drove upfield and again scored a converted try from the base of the scrum.
Lurgan again responded, stripping the ball from a Ballymoney attacker and sending the tireless Gavin Collins away for a try which he ran in from fully sixty metres out to score under the posts. Nolan again converted.
Ballymoney then scored two more pick-and-drive tries in quick succession, both of them converted to leave the score at 29-22.
Lurgan were not finished, however, and after a good spell of determined attacking forced a penalty in Ballymoney’s 22 area. Cheyene Eskra acted quickest, taking a quick tap penalty and driving over for a try half way between the goal posts and the corner flag.
With the referee indicating that time was up, and with a stiff wind blowing against him, out-half Stephen Nolan was left with a very difficult pressure conversion to level the scores. He struck it sweetly, but sadly the wind carried it agonisingly wide, much to the delight of the visiting team who emerged victorious by 29-27.
This was another one of those performances by Lurgan Seconds which can be summed up as ‘so near, but yet so far’.
If this league were to be decided by team spirit, doggedness, determination and a never-say-die attitude, Lurgan would be league champions already. Sadly, however, it is not and it is clear that, while Lurgan were disadvantaged by being a man down for close to 70 minutes, the gulf in technique, aggression and organisation between the two packs ultimately cost Lurgan victory.
Lurgan Seconds have arguably one of the most impressive and exciting back lines and running games in the league, but until they begin to train regularly together, twice a week, and improve their techniques at the scrum, line-out, breakdown and in defence, games like these which are potential victories will continue to elude them.