Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Braidmen on form to down Lansdowne

It was clearly a day where the weather had the upper hand, but the difficult conditions did not prevent Ballymena from continuing their impressive march forward courtesy of a well-crafted 20-0 win over Lansdowne.

There was much to savour in the wake of this result. The Braidmen's fourth successive victory takes them to third in the table, just four points behind leaders Cork Constitution, and keeping the visitors scoreless ensured that Jacques Benade's squad have now remarkably managed to put together three consecutive games without conceding any points to their opponents.

So far, so good for Ballymena and with another home game before the Christmas break, Benade's focus will now be on a fifth straight win when St Mary's College come calling on Saturday.

The need to take points from home games is especially important for the Braidmen's top four aspirations as the fixture list sees them still to take on Dolphin, Shannon, UL Bohemians and Cork Con in a four week blitz - with only Con having to travel to Eaton Park - from late January onwards.

The groundwork for Saturday's win was laid in the weather-battered first half when scrum half Craig Woods created a score for winger Chris Browne.

Donovan Raw's conversion gave Ballymena a 7-0 interval lead and the South African out-half built on this lead with a penalty and drop goal after the restart.

Raw then brought his tally for the day to 10 points with a conversion following Seamus Mallon's late try.

"I'm delighted for the players," Benade said, "and it was especially satisfying that we managed to keep a clean sheet for the third week running. That speaks volumes for the resilience of the side."

Meanwhile, Dungannon's season continues to flirt dangerously close to implosion as the Tyrone side succumbed to their fifth straight defeat as reigning champions Garryowen triumphed 19-5 at Dooradoyle.

The visitors' solitary score came from a David Parkhill try just before the hour mark and the reverse means that Dungannon are a mere two points above bottom side Greystones.

Saturday's home game against Galwegians now looks to have that 'season defining' label attached to it for John Andrews and his squad.

In Division Two, Malone adapted well to the conditions in a valuable 13-10 win at DLSP, which allowed the in-form Gibson Park side rack up an impressive fourth success on the bounce to take them to third.

The win was fashioned by their powerful pack with a try from hooker Michael Bradford, allied to Kieran Hallett's conversion and two penalties.

Another great display from Malone, though both Young Munster and Highfield now have a game in hand on the Belfast side after both their matches were cancelled.

Elsewhere, the Ulster derby clash between Ballynahinch and Belfast Harlequins, at Ballymacarn Park, fell victim to the weather, with the game called off 15 minutes before kick-off.