1st XV draw at Ballyclare in top of the table clash

League title race wide open again as “top two” game ends in a draw at Ballyclare
Ballyclare 5 – Instonians 5
Date: 2-30 pm Saturday, 2 March 2019
Venue: The Cloughan, Ballyclare
Fixture: Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1
Conditions: Strong wind with squally showers and muddy conditions

This was a crunch game for both sides. A loss for either would almost certainly have

cost them the league title. The 5-5 draw probably suited Ballyclare better. While Instonians

still have a 3 point lead going into the last two games Ballyclare have a game in hand.

Three bonus point wins will see them clinch the league title. However, there is still all

to play for with third place Dromore still being in the race. None of the sides can afford

to slip up as the league reaches its exciting crescendo.

Injuries forced a number of changes from the last league outing for this journey up to

Ballyclare. Out, with a hamstring injury, was leading try scorer Matt Kilpatrick. He was

replaced by Mark Mairs, normally a flanker, for a rare outing in the three-quarter line.

James Martin was also side-lined this week, Instonians were fortunate to have a player

of the calibre of Lewis McNamara to replace him at number 8. He was joined in the

back row by Kiwi pair Massimo Kiri Kiri and Cameron Barr. The front five had a bit of

shuffling with John Andress starting in the second row alongside Sean Shuttleworth.

The front row had Neil Saulters back at hooker and Conor Gallagher and Alan Whitten

as props.

It was Instonians who kicked off into the wind. They made a great start turning over

Ballyclare at the first line out but then lost the ball in contact to allow Ballyclare to win

a line out just outside the Instonian 22. They were soon penalised for “holding on” at

the tackle and the away side were quickly attacking down in Ballyclare territory. Another

penalty in their favour allowed them to launch a series of attacks inside the home

side 22. They held the ball well and a series of forward drives saw them take the ball

right to the line. Having battered the line it was eventually fed wide to centre Mark Mairs

who showed his strength and speed to brush aside the remaining defenders for a good

try. The conversion proved too difficult into the wind but Instonians were 0-5 up after

7 minutes.

Back came Ballyclare. It was their turn to hold both possession and territory for a period.

Number 8 David Clarke made a great break from a ruck situation and Instonians did

well to pull him down as he charged into their 22. Eventually Ballyclare kicked away the

possession to allow Instonians to clear and then turn over the ensuing Ballyclare line out.

This gave Paul Marshall the opportunity to test the home side defence with a deft kick

which yielded a scrum put in when Ballyclare could not deal with it. Soon after Instonians

had another chance to attack when a Ballyclare kick went dead and gave them a scrum

back to attack from. The promising move ended when a pass went astray into touch.

In the weather conditions both sides were making errors with both handling and kicking.

Another penalty in their favour allowed scrum half Paul Marshall to tap and race away

but then the ball was turned over for a penalty at the breakdown - which was being fiercely

competed for by both sides. Some of the play was not pretty as they elected to keep the

ball and grind out inches in trench warfare. Inevitably this led to a number of scuffles and

heated exchanges. At this stage the Instonian defence appeared very comfortable with

anything that Ballyclare could throw at them.

Then Ballyclare enjoyed something of a “purple patch” when they forced three penalties

in a row in their favour. This took them down for an attacking line out 5 metres out.

Instonians withstood a number of drives close in and then won a penalty of their own

to kick clear. Such was the force of the wind that they could not get the ball out of their

22. Ballyclare lost another attacking line out and Instonians chose to keep the ball tight

within their 22 rather than try any more risky kicks. In this way they saw out the rest of

the half to go into half time 5-0 ahead.

With the wind behind them in the second period one would have favoured Instonians

to enjoy both territory and possession and add to their score line. That was the way

the second half began. Lewis McNamara fielded the kick off and made another one

of his strong carries. Then Paul Marshall used the wind well to kick for a line out on

the Ballyclare 5 metre line. Although Ballyclare won the line out and mauled it when

their scrum half Ryan McIlwaine went to box kick the ball was caught by the wind and

drifted back over the Ballyclare goal line to give a five metre attacking scrum to Instonians.

From the scrum Instonians attacked time and again on the Ballyclare line. Just when

it looked like they must score the ball was lost forward over the goal line to give Ballyclare

a defensive five metre scrum. This was to prove the turning point in the game. Their

number 8 David Clarke picked up at the base and raced clear. He made a lot of ground

before finding support. They held the ball amazingly well in the conditions and after a

series of plays found themselves pressing on the Instonian goal line. Their opportunity

appeared to be lost when they coughed up the ball in contact. Instonians put into the

scrum 5 metres out and appeared to heel but then in a secondary shove Ballyclare

pushed them off it and attacked the line again. This time they held the ball through the

phases and managed to reach over at close quarters to secure the equalling try. The

conversion bounced outward from a post and the sides were tied 5-5.

Instonians never quite regained their momentum after that. Their previously dominant

tackling was now more passive to allow Ballyclare to make ground with relative ease.

Which meant that, even against the wind, they held the best of the territory and possession.

They were also tactically astute. Previously they had lost quite a lot of ball at the line

out in the windy conditions, but now they avoided kicking for touch and used their

increasingly dominant scrum to good effect. This yielded a number of penalties.

Instonians’ position was not helped when they lost both their Kiwi flankers to head

knocks within a short period of time. Johnny Mooney came on for Cameron Barr

and Mark Mairs moved from centre to replace Massimo Kiri Kiri and allow David

McGovern to replace him in the centre.

The match remained an attritional affair and although both sides had their flurries

neither looked like bothering the score board as both defences held out. Neither

side could hold the ball for long enough to trouble the opposition. Errors continued.

At last as we moved into the closing stages Instonians began to see more of the ball as

Ballyclare discipline started to creak. They had the final four penalties in their favour.

Two came from the previously creaky scrum. Lewis McNamara continued to make a

lot of ground in attack and once or twice looked like he might break away. Paul Marshall

sought to probe but the overall momentum of the team was just not there. John Andress

made an amazing number of tackles and led by example. In the end the precision and

momentum was wanting in what was to prove a disappointing half. Thus, a game which

had started so brightly for Instonians petered out in a draw which is probably more

beneficial to Ballyclare. At the end of the game player/coach John Andress challenged

a number of players to examine their mindset and commit themselves to being really

competitive for the remaining two league games.





Team list: Instonians:15. Colm Cregan, 14. Donal Moloney, 13. Mark Mairs, 12. David Scott ©,

11. Ross O’Donnell, 10. Richard McCarthy, 9. Paul Marshall, 8. Lewis McNamara, 7. Cameron Barr,

6. Massimo Kiri Kiri, 5. Sean Shuttleworth, 4. John Andress, 3. Alan Whitten, 2. Neil Saulters,

1. Conor Gallagher, 16. Johnny Mooney, 17. David McGovern.


Next League Match Sat 9th March


1stXV home to Carrickfergus 1stXV in the League


Top three teams very close.

2 or 3 games left.

Each one a Cup Final!!

Need strong vocal support.































Rest of the season


1st XV

2nd XV

3rd XV

9th Mar

L - Carrickfergus (H)



L - Limavady 2 (A)

16th Mar

McCrea Cup Semi Final


L - Donegal Town (A)


23rd Mar

L - Cooke (A)


L - Cooke 2 (H)


30th Mar

RR 1

L - Armagh 3 (H)

L - Ballyclare 3 (A)

6th Apr

RR 2


Forster Plate Final – Ballyclare 3 (Neutral Venue)


13th Apr

RR 3



20th Apr




22nd Apr (Mon)

Easter Mon Instonians U20s Tournament

Easter Mon Instonians U20s Tournament

Easter Mon Instonians U20s Tournament


27th Apr



To be re-arranged


L- Malone 3 (A) - Thurs 8th at 7.30pm - No ref


To be re-arranged


L - Ballymoney 2 (A) - Postponed due to frozen pitches