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Braidmen still clinging to league crown dream

By Ronnie Ingram

The Junior 4 title looks to be heading to the undefeated Randalstown II but Ballymena IV kept their slim hopes alive with a 34-22 home victory over a gallant Lurgan II.

Braidmen manager Peter Crabbe commented: "This game could have gone either way but the turning point came in the second half when Lurgan were pressing and we turned over the ball and broke away to score.

"There was little between the teams in the first quarter but then we took a 12-point lead within five minutes. Davy Gaston scored from a catch and drive and scrum-half Ryan Patterson broke from the base of a scrum to dash in from halfway for John Nicholl to goal."

Both teams kept attacking and Lurgan reduced the arrears with a Dylan Gill penalty but a move down the left led to home winger Denver Suitters diving over in the corner.

The last play of the half saw Lurgan's Richard Dawson go under the posts for Gill to goal.

The half-time talk did wonders for Lurgan as they came out fighting and fully deserved to snatch the lead when Johnny Clarke scored their next try before Gill converted Patrick McVey's score.

They continued to build on their momentum and were pressing for a full five minutes but then came the loss of possession that changed the whole game.

"Flanker Kevin Doherty ran away for us and linked with Aubrey Crawford who scored for Nicholl to convert and we were ahead again at 24-22," continued Crabbe.

"This must have disheartened them as they probably deserved to be in front.

"We then had a short penalty from which Norman McKernan crashed over and then our centre Thibaut de Dreville added the sixth.

"Finally, I would like to say that it was a great entertaining game with Lurgan contributing a lot and the game was helped by some good refereeing."

The top of the table clash in Junior 2 resulted in a 31-6 win for Malone III at Bangor II.

Malone now have a two-point advantage with a game in hand. Neil Cuthbertson kicked the Bangor penalties while Mark Marwood contributed 14 of the home points.

He had two tries and two conversions, with the other scores coming from captain Andrew Bailie, Euan Carson and Lee Barlow while Marty Griffith nailed a conversion.

Malone’s title hopes ended

Ned Stewart’s two early penalties and a try helped Bangor III to a 30-24 victory over Malone IV and virtually ruled the Belfast team out of contention in Minor East II.

Hinch VII are the favourites having opened up a six-point gap but Bangor have two games in hand and have home advantage when the two meet on March 14. Malone are in third place but this was their fifth loss in 10 games.

Malone captain Ross Rea said: “We had a terribly slow start and too many missed tackles allowed Bangor to take an 18-point lead by half-time. We eventually started to settle down and although we reduced the gap to six points they scored again and that was it.”

After Stewart’s 11 points, Mark McClean cut through to go under the posts for Stewart to convert to put the visitors firmly in charge.

After the break, Malone’s Eoin McCluskey crashed over before centre Bruce Harper added another try, with Chris Shaw converting.

McClean ran in for his second converted score but Malone’s Stephen Donoghue soon bounced over the line for Shaw to add the points. A Gareth Moore try gave Bangor breathing space before William Gillespie scored what proved to be a consolation.

Belfast Telegraph

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