At Ballymena last Saturday an under strength Lisburn eventually crumbled to the might of a very strong Ballymena 2s in their first game of the Conference league.
The 1st XV were shorn of some of the experience they would have required to deal with such a strong challenge because of the absence of a number of players at a player wedding.
Nevertheless, the Smiley Monroe squad which did take to the field put up an excellent showing.
Starting with eight changes to the team which lost out to Randalstown the previous week, Lisburn belied their underdog status and immediately took the game to Ballymena and within three minutes of the start went into a 0-7 lead after outhalf Chris Knox shot up the line when a big gap in the home defence had opened up for him.
He outsprinted the cover to score and then kicked the conversion to the consternation of the home support.
This included Lisburn’s Honorary Life Member, Sid Millar, of Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions fame, who was there to watch his grandson playing for Ballymena.
Over the next fifteen minutes Lisburn probed and searched the Ballymena backline for openings with Peter Weir, Jordan Heatley, Andrew Cardosi, Ross Reaney and Gary Chan to the fore.
This pressure was converted into points through two further penalties from Chris Knox who kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Ballymena then broke through for a try after the Lisburn threequarters failed to deal with a darting run through the centre and the score was narrowed to 7-13.
However, Lisburn came back and just before the interval whistle a great run by winger Ross Reaney saw him break a tackle to go over. The conversion failed but Lisburn led by 7-18.
Sadly, they did not preserve that lead until the interval whistle as one of the big Ballymena forwards broke up field from the restart and despite a number of the Lisburn players half stopping him, they failed to pin his legs and he broke free to score an excellent but soft try from the half way line. The interval score thus stood at 12-18 to Lisburn.
Ballymena had two tall lineout operators who stole most of their visitor’s ball and Lisburn were forced to live off scraps. A bolt out of the Lisburn defensive line, followed by a missed tackle, gave Ballymena their first try of the half and this was quickly followed by a forward effort round the side of a ruck at close quarters.
A third try followed soon afterwards after Lisburn had coughed up yet another lineout and the home team chipped the ball through for it to be collected and brought to the posts. Three conversions and a penalty brought the score to 36-18 and Lisburn were out of it.
They were unlucky to give away a soft intercept try when on the attack with five minutes to go and the conversion made it 43-18.
Lisburn kept running to the last and outside centre Jordan Heatley was rewarded when he broke through on the half way line and ran in the try.
A drop kicked conversion made it 43-25 which just about reflected the dominance of the home team in that unforgiving second period.
Next Saturday they host Banbridge in the Conference league.
The 2s make the long trek to Donegal for their first league encounter.
The 3s, encouraged by their fine win over Ballymoney 3s last Saturday, entertain Lurgan 2s under lights this Wednesday.