Strabane 1st XV 11 Randalstown 1st XV 39
Randalstown were the favourites on Saturday afternoon having notched up a few victories lately while opponents Strabane were bottom of the table. This of course meant that Strabane had nothing to lose and everything to gain, a situation Randalstown understood having been in the same place last season. It would therefore have been very foolish not to expect Strabane to put everything into their game.
The game started evenly with both sides showing signs of early pressure but play remaining stuck on the halfway line
Strabane were first to threaten following a penalty kick into the corner bringing play up to the 5m line. They attempted to use their strong pack to maul the ball over but Randalstown continued to show their impressive defence turning the ball over and winning a penalty.
This didn’t stop Strabane beginning to show dominance in the scrums and Randalstown’s forwards had their work cut out for them as they fought to win their own ball.
The first points came after randalstown finally took advantage of the scrum and won the ball. Possession quickly became a penalty that Michael Smith converted from in front the posts.
Then Strabane again showed why their scrum is a threat and succeeded in forcing randalstown backwards to win a penalty under the posts and the score was duly levelled.
‘Town began to fight back and looked well adjusted in the scrum succeeding in turning over Strabane ball only to waste possession with some basic errors. A well placed kick escaped the randalstown back 3 and brought play to the 5m line. Strabane stole the lineout and shipped the ball wide. A further penalty opportunity came the way of the home side and they opted for the scrum at close quarters. Randalstown disrupted the scrum and cleared out of the 22, but before they had a chance to catch a breath, a line break from a Strabance forward resulted in a further penalty when the covering tackle was adjudged to have been high. Again Strabance opted for the scrum and were able to drive over for the try.
‘Town were stung into action by this and won the ball on the Strabane 10m line. They quickly shipped the ball through the hands to Ryan Mc Garry who spotted a gap in the defence and set off for the line showing sufficient pace and guile to get in under the posts. The conversion was then slotted over by Daryl Mc Garry to give ‘Town a slender 10-8 lead at half time.
Following the restart Strabane earned a further penalty as their winger dived on a loose ball and was flattened by an incoming randalstown player. Play initially continued, but on seeing that the winger stayed down the referee gave a very late penalty and Strabane converted to nudge into a 1 point lead.
With Strabane taking the lead, Randalstown decided to pick up the tempo. A Randalstown penalty in the 22 gave the opportunity to take a quick tap; David Smith mistook coaches Longwell and Strange’s shouts of NO NO NO! for a yes and tapped before drawing two men and offloading well to Gary Hume who in turn took two defenders with him over the line. The try is converted to make the score 11-17 in favour of the visitors.
Strabane then went down to 14 men due to injury. Following the restart the handbags came out and the referee tested his whistle a few times.
More points were to follow and typically randalstown were showing more class in the second half with the backs beginning to show what they work on at in training. A great lineout from the forwards got the ball to McWhirter who shipped the ball to Bailey. Bailey raced through a gap before handing off a player and offloading to David Smith. Smith found Blayne Mc Garry who just managed to make it over the line despite the attention of the home defence.
Randalstown now appeared to have more to offer as they threatened with every touch of the ball and finally, the bonus point came. Randalstown took a quick lineout on the Strabane 10m line. Emmet Crawford stepped through the line and brought play to the 22. From there the ball went wide to no avail but randalstown kept possession. Sloppy ball was tidied up by Mc Whirter who had Bailey and Blayne McGarry in support. McGarry raced through but was caught just before the line. Good support from James Millar allowed Blayne to make the offload and Jamesy to have a simple walkover try.
Randalstown continued to make breaks as Ian Hume raced through the Strabane defence at the halfway line. The diminutive flanker side-stepped the full back but was eventually brought down on the 5m line.
‘Town launched a further attack via Michael Smith, as he threw out a long miss pass and found Ryan Mc Garry. McGarry sprinted down just inside of the touchline from the 10 to the try line and despite some debate with brother Daryl over who scored after a bit of confusion on the line the plaudits went to Ryan.
Randalstown now had a firm hold of this game. In terms of reaction, the last try seemed to please the coaches the most; from 20 yards out the ball was moved from 9 through 10 to David Smith who took a good ine through 3 defenders before sidestepping the fullback to finish under the posts.
As the game drew to a close Strabane showed that they are not a team who simply give in and created all of the offensive pressure in the final four minutes as they cemented themselves in the randalstown 22. Unfortunately it was to be another game where Randalstown could not finish the game with all 15 players as try scorer James Millar took a knock and was carried off.
Next week sees Randalstown at home to league leaders Ballyclare. While they overcame Strabane in the end for good win there is still a lot for randalstown to work at as they again waited until the second half to show what they are capable of.
Randalstown 3rd XV 46 Finn Valley 5 (McCambley Cup)
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Finn Valley from Donegal were first time visitors to Neillsbrook for this Mc Cambley Cup first round tie and began the game in bright fashion with their heavier pack controlling the scrums. Both teams tested each other in the early exchanges before a penalty converted by outhalf Rab Fleck put the town into an early lead. The Randalstown lads then turned on the pressure and in the confusion surrounding an unfortunate head injury to the oppositions number eight, Simon Moon played to the whistle touching down below the posts leaving an easy conversion for Rab Fleck 10-0. With Finn Valley reduced to 14 players, almost immediately Hugh Bishop who was excelling at the lineout took clean ball and off loaded to Adie Johnston who scampered in. Fleck again added the 2 points. Fullback Ben Joyce then continued the trend after being released by winger David Frew who was having a superb game. Manager Devlin in teasing recent hat trick try scorer Dave Harris lit the spark with the number eight immediately sprinting from inside his own half for try of the season so far.
Finn Valley then got just reward with a try of their own on the stroke of half time,27-5
Three replacements were made at half time with Mark’Plum’ Mc Cullough, Adam Service and Michael Reeves all entered the fray and’ The Town’ continued normal service with that man Harris again sprinting in, this time from all of 30 metres converted by Fleck making it 34-5. In the gathering gloom Nigel Moses kept all amused with his witty retorts only to find Finn Valley had their own female equivalent and the banter brightened up the dark cold afternoon.
With the lights now on Mr Moon carved through the now weary and battered defence for his second try and added his own conversion to boot. Pedro Conceiacao then had the last say scampering in from 15 metres to leave the final score 46-5. Fair dues to the visitors who contributed to an entertaining game played in a very sporting fashion. the scoreline in no way reflects the huge effort they put in.
Randalstown 3rds were delighted to record a first victory in this completion and Manager Devlin was full of praise for the whole team.
Thomas Mc Closkey had another fine game at lock always in the thick of things along with Dave Harris and John Allen. Hugh Bishop had another solid game with Scott Snow at scrumhalf having a stormer along with David Frew and Willie Fleck all well marshalled by outhalf Fleck. Big Gary Paine also had a fine game before an unfortunate injury.
Team-P Conceiacao,R Adair,G Paine,T Mc Closkey,H Bishop,G Hume,J Allen,D Harris,S Snow,R Fleck,W Fleck,A Johnston,S Moon,D Frew,B Joyce,M Mc Cullough,A Service and M Reeves