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School's Cup: Ballymena haven't reached top gear yet, warns Murray after Wallace triumph

Ballymena Academy 12-3 Wallace HS

Published 08/02/2016

Forward thinking: Ballymena’s Johnny McKeown aims to find a way past Wallace’s Ben Parker
Forward thinking: Ballymena’s Johnny McKeown aims to find a way past Wallace’s Ben Parker

Ballymena Academy coach Gavin Murray hailed his players after they made it to the Danske Bank Schools' Cup quarter-finals with a 12-3 triumph over Wallace High School.

Murray, whose side will face Belfast Royal Academy in the last-eight, said: "Both teams had to defend well but I thought we won better ball.

"Unfortunately, careless mistakes robbed us of tries as we should have won by a greater margin. We have more to give. Our back three put in a lot of work and Alexander Clarke, Marcus Rea and Johnny McKeown were big ball carriers for us.

"Their No.8 was a real threat but we managed to contain him on most occasions."

Ballymena had the better of the possession in the first quarter and took the lead after 12 minutes.

Bruce Houston kicked a penalty to the corner and following a catch and drive, second row forward Oisin Jordan crashed over close to touch.

Houston added the difficult conversion but falling behind jolted Wallace into action.

Scrum-half Johnny Stewart was always a danger, whether it was his accurate kicking or superb distribution, and centre Ben Finlay was strong with ball in hand.

The visiting pressure was rewarded with a Stewart penalty but Ballymena came back at them again before the turnaround.

In first-half injury-time, Braidmen captain Marcus Rea barged over following a host of phases but the conversion attempt was missed.

In the second period, both teams defended well and Wallace were unfortunate to lose the services of Finlay with a head injury.

It was a second-half that produced no points in which the young Wallace side struggled to penetrate deep into their opponent's territory.

The home half-back pairing of Houston and Michael Stronge controlled the game well and the back three of Mark Thompson, Conor Cosgrove and Conor Gallagher looked dangerous on the ball.

Jamie Manderson and Ben Finlay worked hard for last season's defeated finalists.

But next up come BRA - a testing challenge indeed.

Belfast Telegraph

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