Coach Johnston thrilled as McKay puts boot in to end Ballymena's long Medallion Shield wait
Campbell College 8 Ballymena Academy 10
Ballymena Academy won their first Medallion Shield since 1970 yesterday thanks to a valiant forward effort and vital points from the boot of out-half Ross McKay.
In a game of contrasting styles, Ballymena's big pack muscled their way to the title when Campbell's usually incisive backs couldn't use the wide expanses of Kingspan Stadium to their advantage.
Ballymena coach Stephen Johnston was thrilled to see his side capitalise after big moments in the game went their way.
"The boys are over the moon," he said. "They're a super group of boys but I have to commend Campbell College too because it was a great game.
"There were moments that went our way and we were very fortunate that our kicker was on form. We had a try-saving tackle that probably saved it for us too.
"It was certainly one that could have gone either way."
Indeed, Campbell had forced a number of openings early on and the first points came from the boot of Ollie Ralston after Ballymena were pinged for playing the nine at the ruck.
A breakdown penalty allowed Ballymena to knock the ball into the corner though, and physical No.8 Harry Andrews, who had carried well throughout, rumbled over the line from close range. A fine touchline conversion from McKay made it 7-3.
Playing from behind, Campbell still enjoyed much of the ball but needed a few more passes to stick if their threatening backline was to make hay against what was a determined Ballymena pack.
Eventually they did break through. Impressive captain Finlay Parkes was twice held up over the line before Luke Collins crashed over in the last play before the interval.
With the momentum back in their favour, Campbell almost seized the initiative for good in the second half when it seemed as if their backline play was finally to reap rewards, but Jordan Millar somehow got back to strip the ball in the tackle when the Belfast boys seemed sure to cross the whitewash.
And that intervention from Millar would soon look all the more crucial when, after a period of sustained pressure, McKay's second fine kick of the afternoon nudged his side back in front.
That penalty would prove to be the winning of the game as Ballymena held on tight for a famous victory.
CAMPBELL COLLEGE: H Minford; S Gaw, H Hughes, G Robinson, D Williamson, O Ralston, A Johnson; J Boal, J Massey, C Hillis, C McAuley, A Nield, J Hudson, F Parks, L Collins.
Replacements: P Elmore, B Jackson, P Davies, E Lindsay, J Dugan, C Gaskin, A Morrow, D Parks.
BALLYMENA ACADEMY: J Drain; J Cochrane, J Millar, M French, R Mallon, R McKay, J Wright; T Douglas, E McPherson, J Mawhinney; P Browne, F Andrews; A Lawther, A Lamont, H Andrews.
Replacements: E Cranston, J Craig, O Thompson, J Cooper, D Pyper, C McNeill, O Cosgrove, J McLean.