There was a disappointing away day for the Smiley Monroe sponsored Lisburn 1XV when they lost 12-8 at Ballymoney.
After encouraging recent displays resulting in a losing bonus point after last minute defeat to league leaders Carrick and a victory last week in Donaghadeee, Lisburn travelled to Ballymoney with confidence.
They were hoping that the hard work and dedication from the new coaching team of Neil Hinds and Andrew Posthlewaite was beginning to reap rewards.
Influential centre David Gilkinson was unavailable due to work commitments while brother Mark was recovering from a nasty eye injury picked up last week in Donaghadee, they were replaced by the talented Andrew Gilmore and the youngest of the Gilkinson brothers, Aaron.
An enterprising kick off from fullback Chris Knox saw Andrew Gilmore gathering the restart before making great territory inside the Ballymoney half.
After a number of well worked phases the travelling Lisburn support could be forgiven for thinking they were in for another good day, having watched the controlled and impressive performances of recent weeks.
The first scrum of the day was to revealed the first area of concern with the usually dominant Lisburn pack clearly under pressure, a penalty resulted, allowing Ballymoney to clear their lines and relieve the early pressure.
Undeterred though Lisburn worked their way back into Ballymoney territory after good work from the forwards and a relieving kick from scrum half Peter Weir.
Fly half Falemaka Vave was beginning to bring his backline into the game and skipper Tom Fraser who along with No 8 Matt Edgar and the returning Simon Gilmore were leading from the front with some direct running at the young Ballymoney side.
It wasn’t long before Lisburn were rewarded with a penalty which Knox dispatched between the uprights to leave Lisburn with a deserved 3-0 lead.
After the restart Ballymoney had their first period of pressure, the Lisburn defence though appeared to be holding firm with centres Hooke and Gilmore and open side Jake Bebbington showing up well in defence.
A costly turnover led to a 5m Ballymoney scrum, which the powerful Ballymoney 8 were able to walk over the line, the resulting conversion left Lisburn trailing 7-3.
The following 20 minutes saw the Lisburn front row of Gilkinson, Thompson & Fraser gain some parody at scrum time and the line out led by Alan Hughes and Jonny Davis was beginning to provide some quality ball to allow the Lisburn backline to probe their Ballymoney counterparts.
After enterprising breaks from Scott Hughes and Ross Reaney the Ballymoney defence was eventually breached when fly half Vave found Andrew Gilmore running a scintillating line to crash over the Ballymoney line and leave the half time score at 8-7 in favour of the visitors.
The score would remain that way for the next half hour, Ballymoney though were offering little in attack and the Lisburn back row of Simon Gilmore, Jake Bebbington & Matt Edgar were getting through an ocean of work in slowing up the Ballymoney ball.
The game was very much there for the taking but Lisburn lacked the composure to finish one of the many chances presented to them.
They will be particularly disappointed that they allowed their usually rampant rolling maul to be constantly thwarted by stray Ballymoney hands, although not always legal with the Ballymoney skipper dispatched to the sin bin for dragging down the Lisburn maul 5m out, Lisburn will need to be more savvy and clinical in those situations in the weeks ahead.
With ten minutes remaining Ballymoney were presented with an opportunity to nudge ahead, opting to kick for points from a penalty from the far right touch line, the resulting penalty bounced off the upright and Ballymoney were first to react, the ball bouncing perfectly into the arms of their on rushing chasers who crashed over the line.
The conversion again bounced off the post, to leave Ballymoney 12-8 in front. With only minutes to go and full back Knox sent rather harshly to the sin bin after the Ballymoney score, Lisburn faced an uphill battle in their attempt to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
Alas it was not to be and the Lisburn side came away extremely disappointed in defeat.
This was a game that was very much there to be won, and this young Lisburn side will be very disappointed with their second half performance.
They will need to be honest with themselves in their assessment of their performance this week at training, but will know that they have the ability to challenge any team in this league when they play to their potential.
LISBURN (1-17): A Gilkinson, T Thompson,T Fraser (Capt), A Hughes, J Davis, S Gilmore, J Bebbington, M Edgar, P Weir, F Vave, R Reaney, N Hooke, A Gilmore, S Hughes, C Knox, A Weir, C O’Brian.