Friends’ Medallion XV travelled to Ballymena on Saturday to play Ballymena Academy in the third round of the Danske Bank Medallion Shield.
Only seven minutes into the game as Ballymena had worked into Friends’ 22, centre Chris Kane intercepted a Ballymena pass and ran the length of the pitch to score under the posts, converted by Friends’ Captain, Matthew Chapman, 0-7.
Ballymena Academy fought hard to get back into an attacking position but Kane’s score had given Friends’ the belief they needed and their defensive play proved too strong for the home side to breach.
On the 15 minute mark a spilled ball was picked up by Friends’ outhalf, Reece Malone who dived over the line in the corner, conversion missed, 0-12.
The large home support became more vocal and lifted the Academy side who again used their size advantage to retain the ball but Friends’ had the belief and were up to the task.
A miss-communication by Friends’ in midfield let Academy’s attack cross the gain line and their player made his way through various attempted tackles to score an unconverted try out wide, 5-12.
Academy had earlier been stronger in the scrums but Friends’ had rectified this and as halftime approached from a midfield Friends’ scrum, number 8, Sam Greer broke from the back of the scrum, he had a lot of work to do as Academy’s defence was up and covering well, Greer broke through 3 tackles and zig zagged his way through the scrambling defence, he was well supported by his own players which gave him options but he scored a well deserved individual try under the posts converted by Chapman, 19-5 Halftime score.
With 20 - 25 minutes to go Friends’ showed how the hard work they had put in on the practise pitch was going to pay off; for 15 - 20 minutes Ballymena Academy camped within 10 metres of Friends’ line, they tried everything to cross it and did on 6 occasions only to be held up by Friends’.
Friends’ took 3 of the 5 metre scrums against the head but couldn’t clear out of the half due to excellent follow up chasing by Ballymena.
During this attack on the line Ballymena received 5 penalties on the five metre line which they tapped and went only to be repelled by the resilient Friends’ defence.
Ballymena went wide but again the Friends’ drift defence was solid. Eventually with only minutes remaining Friends’ for the second time in this half of the game got into Ballymena’s half and great work by second row, Sam Gunn, saw him pick the ball off the back of a ruck and charge 30 metres to score under the posts converted by Chapman, 5-26 Final score.
The reward for this win is playing Shield favourites, RBAI at Osborne Park with only this week to recover from injuries as this game had been a rearranged fixture due to weather.