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Unbeaten Ballymena hit by loss of influential quintet

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballymena are undefeated in Ulster Challenge League 1 - their run including a 31-26 win over champions Ballynahinch - but they face a difficult test against Malone at Gibson Park tomorrow.

The Braidmen will be missing five players who are involved with the Ulster 'A' side but they will at least have the services of Academy aces Adam McBurney and Kieran Joyce.

Centre Callum Patterson is still injured so a number of up and coming players will get an opportunity. Coach Andy Graham is also curtailed as the Seconds travel to face Junior Cup winners Bangor in the Towns' Cup.

Graham said: "Brian Young and Chris Condell are in the front row and former Under-18 ace Ciaran Thompson is in the second row. He is a really exciting prospect and will be alongside David Whan.

"In the back row Andrew Knox will be given his chance. During the season we have been endeavouring to keep two strong teams in action week after week."

Malone, who will also be weakened due to representative commitments, have lost their first two games in the competition to Armagh (39-27) and City of Derry (32-13).

Meanwhile, in last night's UCL 2 game, Banbridge clinched a 22-7 win over Belfast Harlequins, though they will be disappointed to take only four points at Deramore Park.

They took the lead after 20 minutes with an Adam Doherty penalty before the home side retorted with a Jack Newman try, which was converted by Adam White.

Bann regained their composure and Shandon Scott crossed in the 37th minute for Doherty to add the points. Further tries followed in the final quarter from Andy Morrison and Peter Cromie for Doherty to goal the first.

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