Ballyclare 10 Clogher Valley 14

Clogher Valley made a tremendous start to their league campaign with this opening win in Ballyclare on Saturday.

The visitors started on the front foot but gradually the ’Clare side weathered the early onslaught and took play to the Clogher half.

Hard running, and phase after phase, they eventually created an overlap to score a well-worked try. It was converted to give Ballyclare a seven-point lead at the 11 minute mark.

Ballyclare, buoyed by the score, had a very strong period where they strived to increase the score.

The Valley defence was awesome with out half Maxwell in the thick of the action. Dunwoody was everywhere and, indeed, the entire side contributed to a great rear guard action.

It was the visitors’s turn to weather the storm and force play into the Ballyclare half.

40 metres out Callum Smyton forced a turnover and took off. He linked with Wilkinson, back to Smyton and back to Wilkinson again, who crossed for the Clogher opening score. Armstrong added the extras to even up the exchange.

Ballyclare added a penalty as it headed towards the break.

The visitors though had a late scare in the half. A Ballyclare maul was headed to the Clogher line, but somehow they managed to halt it with the official now indicating half time.

Clogher had a bright start in the second period, pushing on for a further score. Two penalties sailed wide as the intensity increased. In the absence of Sharkey, the line out was not as fruitful as it can be. Thus possession and field position were difficult to maintain.

Maxwell had to leave the fray but Clogher have quality subs in Mills and Crawford. Armstrong moved to 10 and Mills came on in the centre. Crawford came on in the front row later.

Smyton broke from the back of a scrum, and offloaded to Armstrong, who in turn put Wilkinson in space. The winger was not to be stopped, dotting down under the posts with Armstrong adding the conversion.

The visitors were very much in control in the final quarter, as youth and fitness dictated most of the play.

The Valley lost Smyton to a Yellow Card and, as a result, Ballyclare forced one last chance. Like at the end of the first half it was a driving maul.

As it inched towards the Valley line, Dunwoody managed somehow to turn possession over and that was that.

Final whistle.

Next Saturday, Clogher are at home to Ballinahinch 2nds in the Conference League.