A try in the final minute snatched victory from Coleraine on Thursday evening.
The Cookstown sponsored Coleraine team were defending a two point lead right to the end of the league game against Ballymoney but a period of unrelenting pressure from the visitors brought a last gasp score and a hard fought 13 – 16 win. The victory keeps Ballymoney in the hunt for top spot in the league in third place and a losing bonus point brings Coleraine level with Portadown in sixth.
Coleraine coach Richard Kernohan.was disappointed with the result. He said: “It was always going to be a close game but it was disappointing to lose out in the last play.
“The boys worked very hard throughout the game but now we have to leave that behind us and focus on the matches next week.”
The match was played under lights and in front of a record crowd at Rugby Avenue, having been brought forward from Boxing Day because of Coleraine’s Junior Cup final match on December 28.
Coleraine claimed the first points after 11 minutes when Nial Irwin snatched a sloppy Ballymoney pass and sprinted away from the defence to score under the posts. Michael Griffith secured the conversion.
Just on the half hour Coleraine’s Andrew Neely came close when he stole the ball in the loose and almost got over the line. Griffith also came close with a penalty which drifted wide.
Just before the break Griffith slotted home a 35 metre penalty and Carric McCartney replied with Ballymoney’s first points from the Coleraine 22. At the break the score stood at Coleraine 10 Ballymoney 3.
Coleraine brought on Alan Stirling for Aaron Gaston at the restart and Ballymoney started to put on the pressure. It paid off with a score within five minutes.
Moving from a five metre throw in the visitors put in a massive attack and in the end it was Andrew Surgeoner who got the touch. The conversion was just wide.
Five minutes later Ballymoney again crossed the line but solid Coleraine defence held the ball up and the score was denied. The attack continued and eventually Coleraine yielded a penalty which McCartney slotted over from the Coleraine 22 and Ballymoney claimed the lead 10-11.
From the restart Coleraine went on the offensive, pinning Ballymoney in their own half and eventually they also gave away a penalty. Griffith was on target and Coleraine went back in front on 13-11.
There was a shock in store for Coleraine as Ballymoney went on the attack. Coleraine scrum-half Paul Roxborough was yellow carded for interfering with a Ballymoney player on the ground. The resulting penalty attempt drifted wide.
Although a man down, Coleraine mounted attacks into the Ballymoney half but the visitors used the advantage of a stiff breeze to push play back into the home half.
Back to full strength and with three minutes left on the clock Coleraine had a late chance when Brian Cochrane intercepted a floating pass and broke away from his own 22. The visitors chased him down and gained a penalty in the loose.
Ballymoney went for touch and attacked from a 20 metre throw in. The Ballymoney pack inched towards the line and despite a ferocious defence Jonathan Hanna finally breached the line for the winning points. The conversion was wide and brought the game to an end, Ballymoney winning 13-16.
Ballymoney secured their third place in the league as a result and Coleraine had to make do with a losers’ bonus point.
Attention now moves to the Junior Cup final in Ravenhill on Wednesday, against Donaghadee. This will be another big test for the Bannsiders and followed on New Year’s Eve with an away fixture at Portadown in the league.
The Cup final kicks off at 2.00pm and the club want as many people as possible to come along to cheer them on. Good luck Coleraine.
Coleraine First XV: S Jefferson, D Ferguson, A Gaston (Stirling), P Bogle, J gault, R Gibson, A Neely, S Douglas, P Roxborough, M Griffith, N hall, T Van Wyk, D Orr, N Irwin, B Cochrane, Subs: A Stirling, J Henderson.