Down High 6 Ballymena Academy 27
Down High's record breaking Danske Bank Medallion Shield campaign came to an end on Saturday at the hands of a strong Ballymena Academy side. Having seen off Omagh Academy and Methodist College on their way to this semi-final clash the boys took to the field confident in their ability to cause a shock against their highly rated Co. Antrim rivals in the fixture played at Osbourne Park.
Things didn't get off to a great start for Down as Ballymena made the most of a 5 metre lineout in the 4th minute of play to barge their way over for an early unconverted try. A second Ballymena try followed on the 10 minute mark and severely tested the Down resolve but the boys in green responded valiantly and as the first half developed increasing chances came their way with great breaks from William Annett, Robin Wilson and Marcus Graham capturing the attention of the large crowd and giving Down significant territorial gains. Indeed all the Down pressure led to a number of penalties one of which, captain Patrick Browne was able to convert to reduce the deficit to 10-3. For the remainder of the half Down were resolute in defence with Lewis Canning amongst others mounting up a fantastic tackle tally.
In the second half Down were first to record a score as Ballymena indiscipline at a ruck 5 minutes in granted Browne a penalty which he slotted between the uprights. Further Down pressure and impressive carries from the likes of wing Harry Hitchens and prop Sam Rickard created two further penalty opportunities for Browne in the following 10 minutes but both drifted wide leaving the Ballymena lead in tact.
On the 48 minute mark Ballymena made an incisive break through the Down midfield defence and after chipping the ball over the scrambling defence got a fortunate bounce of the ball which allowed them to run in for a converted score and extend their lead to the point of no return for Down given the stage of the match.
With the result now beyond doubt and Down obviously deflated by that fact, Ballymena were able to add two further tries before the end of the game. At the final whistle the Down boys were gutted knowing that at significant points in the game they had been very close to an upset. Despite this understandable disappointment the squad will reflect on a historic campaign that saw them go further in the competition than any previous Down High side.