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Hat-trick delight for battling Braid

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballymena V added the Harden Cup to the Junior 6 league crown and the Forster Cup already locked up in the Eaton Park trophy cabinet.

Their latest triumph came on Saturday when defeating Junior 2 champions Ballynahinch IV with a hard-fought 28-25 success at Randalstown.

It has been a magnificent performance to finish the season undefeated and earn the title of the best Junior side in the Province.

In the League they accumulated 606 points and only conceded 80 while in the Forster Cup final they defeated Instonians III 54-0. Their game against Hinch was expected to be their most difficult of the season and that's how it turned out as they were taken to extra-time.

The difficult playing conditions meant there was a slow start with many handling errors. The teams were level at 6-6 after 15 minutes with Matthew Banks kicking two penalties for Ballymena and Matthew Norton replying.

"We took the lead just before half-time when Paul McBride picked up from the base of a ruck and barged over for a converted try which gave us a 13-6 interval lead," explained Ballymena manager Peter Crabbe.

The half-time talk did wonders for Hinch as they forced their opponents back and within 10 minutes, they were ahead.

There was further disaster for the Eaton Park side when an inaccurate cross-kick was gathered and Niall Montgomery touched down for Norton to goal and make it 22-13.

Hinch looked to be well in control but Ballymena's player of the season, Garret Bell, powered through to touch down for Banks to add the points. Within two minutes, he ran in a second and Ballymena were in front again.

"In the dying minutes we gave away another penalty so extra time was needed," said Crabbe.

"We set up a powerful maul and rumbled forward into Hinch's territory where a penalty was awarded and Matthew did what was required.

"I am very proud of the character the team has shown and now look forward to next season."

Belfast Telegraph

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