Ballyclare happy to ride their luck
Ballyclare High can consider themselves very fortunate to qualify for the semi-finals of the Danske Bank Schools' Cup as Sullivan Upper were the better team for the majority of this tie.
They had the possession and territorial advantage but were hindered by too many errors.
Credit also to Ballyclare who defended stoutly and took advantage of the couple of opportunities that came their way at Rashee Road.
The home team took the lead after 10 minutes when a forward drive led to flanker Michael Kirk crashing over.
Sullivan came back with a Mark Adair penalty and although it was they that applied most of the pressure it was Ballyclare who took a 12-3 advantage when the pack again rumbled forward for David Lawlor to touch down.
Sullivan were unfortunate to have a try disallowed after they were awarded a penalty and the ball was kicked into the corner.
From the ensuing line-out David Cave gathered and grounded the ball for a try but the ball then appeared to be scooped out of his possession and the referee adjudged it was a forward pass.
This came at a crucial time but the visitors continued to give their all.
With ten minutes remaining Sullivan flanker Peter Cooper gathered around midfield and with sheer pace and strength took a good line to cut through the Ballyclare defence for an excellent try for Adair to goal and bring them back into the tie at 10-12.
This gave them the incentive to keep attacking and they came very close to clinching the encounter in injury time.
Scrum-half Charlie Burrowes broke from the side of a scrum and ran 60 metres before being hauled down by full back Matthew McDowell.
Daniel Soper, who has led Ballyclare to three semi-finals and a final in the past few years, was relieved. "We were pretty lucky," he said.
"Sullivan played well and were the better team on the day.
"We took our two chances and they didn't take any.
"I thought David Lawther was outstanding and Johnny Darling was very noticeable in the line-out.
"There will need to be a big improvement before the semi-final."
Sullivan coach Mike Rodgers accepted his team played below par.
"Fair play to Ballyclare with their strong scrummaging and their control," said Rodgers.
"We would have liked a more open game for our backs to show their talents but they slowed the ball down.
"We thought we had scored a try but the referee disagreed but that's the way it is.
"We have no complaints as the tie was played in excellent conditions and in a fine spirit."
Ballyclare's star man was prop David Lawther who won turnover ball time and again, tackled hard and also crossed over for an important try.