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Ballymena go up with thanks to rivals Derry

By Ronnie Ingram

After a year's absence Ballymena are back in AIL 1B following their bonus point victory over Barnhall, 24-13, and City of Derry's 26-17 success at UCC. It was such a closely contested final day that if Ballymena had lost then City of Derry would have been promoted.

Relieved Ballymena Director of Rugby Pete McKenzie was full of praise for his team, saying: "We were two scores behind in the second half but rallied with three tries to clinch victory.

"The turning point came when second row forward Ian Caldwell was brought on and the momentum swung in our favour. He led from the front with an outstanding performance and was undoubtedly the Man of the Match.

"Our win wasn't enough to secure promotion as we relied on the efforts of Derry who did something we couldn't do and that was to travel to UCC and win."

Ballymena's fightback started at 13-5 down in the second half.

Playing into the wind, Ian Caldwell crashed over for Calum Patterson to goal and then second row David Whann touched down to make it 17-13. After 38 minutes the best try of the afternoon came following a sweeping back move for winger Darryl Montgomery to dash in for Patterson to goal.

In the first half scrum-half David Shanahan scored Ballymena's first try while Barnhall's Simon Gillespie kicked two penalties and later goaled a Tom McKeown try.

Derry were 17-12 in arrears at the halfway stage in Cork but fought back with two more tries for a bonus point. They finished third in the table and Simon Logue (2), Jack Caithness and Andrew Semple were their scorers for Semple to goal three. Galwegians were the best team in the Division with only one defeat and they had already secured the title before their 50-3 win over Rainey. UCC finished fourth and Queen's a very commendable fifth after their 34-5 win over Old Crescent.

Nenagh/Ormond were presented with the 2B trophy after their 29-7 victory at Ards; Armagh had the edge at Midleton 12-10 and Banbridge lost to Naas, 17-13. Instonians showed their skills a little too late in the season when they proved too strong at bottom of the table Suttonians 27-10.

Hopefully they will continue that form when they face Kanturk at Shaw's Bridge next Saturday to establish which team will earn the final place in 2B next season. What a sad day it would be not only for Instonians but for Ulster if a club that was established in 1919 and has produced two British Lions captains in Sammy Walker (1938) and Robin Thompson (1955) as well as 29 other capped Irish players were to be demoted to the Junior ranks. They deserve all the support they can muster, past and present, for what will be a difficult task against the Munster team.

Clogher Valley lost their final AIL Round-Robin Tournament game at Kanturk 18-7. We were a victim of our own successes," lamented manager Ritchie Haire. "Too many competitions and too many games meant injuries so we had to take a weakened team to Kanturk and we were under pressure from the start. Lets's hope we'll have a number of players back before the Towns' Cup final on Easter Monday".

Wanderers finished the competition with 13 points to gain the automatic place in 2B while Kanturk had 10, Clogher Valley 4 and OLBC 1.

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