Down High Under 13s recent winning run came to an end but they still managed to return from Co Antrim with a 17-17 draw against Ballymena Academy. The away team suffered a blow after 5 minutes when full back Jonathan Mason had to leave the field after taking a knock to the head. Immediately after this, with the Down backline still trying to reorganise, Ballymena’s strong running centre outstripped the Down defence to score the opening try which was unconverted. This spurred the boys in green into action and they replied soon after. A number of pick and drives were stopped just short of the line but having sucked the Ballymena defence into the breakdown area, the ball was moved wide to Andrew McCoubrey who scored.Outhalf Greg Hutley added the extras to give the away side a 7-5 lead. Unfortunately for Down the Ballymena backs exposed the defensive frailties of their visitors and scored a converted try to lead 12-7. Down had the final word of the half when number 8 Reece Hagan picked up from the base of an attacking ruck to score an unconverted try to leave the halftime score 12-12.
The second half started with Down not able to claim the kick off cleanly and Ballymena pressure told when a few plays later their scrum half made life difficult at the base of the scrum and their flanker was on hand to score an unconverted try in the corner. The remainder of the game was played in the Ballymena half and Downeventually got back on level terms when Torran Stock was on hand to dive over in the corner after a mix up in the home defence.
It shows how far this team has progressed whenever they are disappointed with a draw against another of Ulster Schools top rugby teams. The Down boys know themselves that they have played much better in recent weeks and they will need to be at their best when Sullivan Upper visit the Swamp on the 14th December.