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Marshall strikes to bring Braidmen hope for survival

 

By Michael Sadlier

It almost seemed scripted really, Ballymena having Luke Marshall on board and then derailing leaders Shannon with their only try being scored by the Ulster and Ireland player.

But the significance of their hard-earned 10-5 result at a windy Eaton Park was much more notable than merely having a high profile player making an unexpected appearance for his old club as what was only the Braidmen's fourth win of the season could hardly have come at a more opportune moment.

Though still in eighth, and by no means out of the woods regarding relegation issues, Ballymena badly needed this result to restore belief that they can escape their predicament.

Their victory keeps Andy Graham's squad three ahead of UL Bohemians and becoming only the third side to defeat Shannon in this campaign was down to the Braidmen's second half revival.

After trailing 5-0 when the sides changed ends, Marshall got over in the 56th minute with his centre partner Callum Patterson converting.

The scoreboard stayed that way until four minutes after the hour mark when Patterson slotted a penalty and the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Events at Eaton Park were also notably beneficial for Ballynahinch as they too came from behind, at home, to defeat UCC 23-7 and move to a mere point behind leaders Shannon.

Brian McLaughlin's side trailed 7-0 after the first half at Ballymacarn Park, but three quick-fire penalties from Richard Reaney nudged them ahead 9-7 and they never surrendered the initiative.

Reaney converted Zack McCall's try and did likewise when centre Rory Butler got over.

Elsewhere, Banbridge made it a clean sweep for 1B's Ulster sides - who all played at home as well - as they beat Old Wesley 18-12 to remain three behind Hinch in third.

Two first half tries from centre Andrew Morrison helped put Bann 12-0 up after the opening half but Wesley then tied the scores at 12-12.

Bann had to dig deep to rescue this one and two Porter penalties got them there.

Div 1B: B'mena 10 Shannon 5, Hinch 23 UCC 7, Bann 18 O Wesley 12, UL Bohs 7 Dolphin 3

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