Following hard-fought seasons in their respective leagues, Ballyclare and Larne locked horns in the Hall Cup at The Cloughan on Saturday.
Tries from Robert Boyd, Robert Smith and Willie Rea ensured the hosts regained the trophy that is played for on an annual basis between the east Antrim rivals. Smith added a penalty and a conversion in the 20-9 win, while Larne were restricted to a drop goal and two penalties.
Larne were first on to the scorecard with that drop goal, but the lead changed hands soon afterwards when scrum-half Thomas McGookin made a break before linking with skipper Gary Weatherup who raced into the 22 where he transferred to lock Boyd, who powered over in the corner for an unconverted score.
Play ebbed and flowed without much threat from either side until five minutes before the break. Wing-forward Weatherup broke through the defence again, drew his man, and got the pass away for Smith to score another unconverted score in the corner. However, Larne had time to score a penalty, reducing the deficit to 6-10 at the break.
During the third quarter Smith and his opposite number traded penalties to make it 13-9, and the remainder of the half continued to be closely contested, until the White Hare men made sure of victory with a third touchdown.
When prop Ross Scott was stopped just short of the line, the ball was smartly recycled to fellow prop Willie Rea, who crashed over between the posts for a score that Smith goaled to seal the 20-9 win.
Both teams and supporters returned to the warmth of the clubhouse where Larne President, Phil McMurtry, presented the trophy to home captain Gary Weatherup, while Robert Boyd was named home Man of the Match.
Before kick-off the Cloughan clubhouse was packed to capacity for the pre-match reception, which was sponsored by local firm Agnew Recovery. Members of Ballyclare’s successful Under 16 and Under 14 sides were present, along with two special guests, founding members Derek Moore and Leslie McAdoo.
They recalled incidents from Ballyclare’s first game in 1949 against Larne, and although Leslie had the honour of scoring the club’s first-ever try, nobody from either club remembers who won!
Ballyclare III lost in Ballymoney, but the 4th XV recorded a fine win in Newry.
Earlier in the morning the Ballyclare youth teams had mixed fortunes in their cup competitions. The Under 14s and Under 18s lost to Lurgan and Letterkenny respectively, but the Under 16s progressed to the semi-final stage with a 15-13 win against Monaghan.
Ballyclare members are reminded that the annual awards dinner is on Saturday 23rd, and anyone intending to attend should contact Chairman Peter Kirk, or add their name to the list at the bar.
The AGM will be held in the clubhouse on Thursday 28th and all adult members are encouraged to attend.