MIDLETON and Ballina had to settle for a share of the spoils in a disappointing Energia All Ireland League Division 2C tie at Towns Park, with all the scores coming in the opening half.
Midleton went into this tie full of confidence after a splendid second-half performance away to Bangor last time out, but this result put a big dent on their chances of reaching the playoffs, against a side that had lost all their previous six games, since their relegation from Division 2B last season.
Ballina could have snatched victory in the final ten minutes when two kickable penalty efforts by Ben Matheson were off target.
Despite the extreme weather conditions, the Midleton pitch was in an excellent state due to the drainage work that was carried out during the off-season.
However, one must question the 2.30pm kick-off, as the game ended in darkness.
The conditions dictated that this would be a forwards encounter with both packs determined to keep the ball tight, but Ballina to their credit looked dangerous when they had ball in hand.
Midleton applied the early pressure from the kick-off and after seven minutes were awarded a penalty, which Stuart Lee converted to give the home side a 3-0 lead.
The Westerners were level four minutes later when Matheson slotted over a long-range penalty to tie the scores 3-3.
Sloppy Midleton passing nearly ended in a Ballina try when winger Liam Golden intercepted a pass and was stopped inside the home side’s 22.
Midleton’s carelessness was punished on 16 minutes when Ronan Molloy intercepted just outside the Midleton 22 and raced in unopposed to touch down under the posts. Matheson converted for a 10-3 lead.
From the restart, Midleton were on the front foot and Lee kicked his second penalty to reduce the lead to four points.
Ten minutes before halftime, Ballina extended their lead with a second Matheson penalty, after Midleton were penalised following a lineout on their own 22.
With Harry Regan, Gary Kavanagh and Bradley O’Leary proving dangerous in the loose for the visitors, Ian West was posing problems with ball in hand.
Five minutes before the interval, Midleton were level, when following a kick ahead by Lee, Jack Colbert was up in support to touch down and Lee added the extras to leave it 13-13 at the halftime whistle.
Midleton were on top in the opening stages of the second half. Conor Walsh and Conor Smiddy were prominent in the forward exchanges as the nearest they came to a score was a Colbert break in the Ballina 22 which was halted short of the line.
A yellow card for Midleton’s Julian Power saw Ballina on the front foot for the closing stages. Matheson saw a penalty effort from the 22 sail wide of the Midleton’s posts, with eight minutes remaining.
Ballina continued to apply pressure as they went in search of their first win of the campaign.
Calum Quinn brought off some big tackles as Midleton tried to get out of their own half, but Regan, Evan Creaven and Mark Walker continued to put Midleton on the back foot.
Matheson saw another Ballina penalty attempt from the 22 fall short as the final whistle sounded.