Antrim RFC Notes: I XV 41 v PSNI RFC II XV 17 REPORT

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Antrim RFC 41 – 17 PSNI RFC
Antrim returned to home territory, this weekend, to claim victory and the top spot from Ballynahinch, against a very experienced and stubborn PSNI team. Antrim ran in 6 tries with two tries apiece from David Thompson and Toby Rowe and single efforts from Neil Manson and John Bull.
The first half was a closely contested, end to end affair and it was PSNI who started the brightest, playing the game deep into Antrim’s half. After 5 minutes, PSNI kicked into the corner and placed some severe pressure on the Antrim tryline. Some good Antrim defence kept them at bay but some eager bodies at the breakdown gifted PSNI a penalty, right in front of the posts to take a 3-0 lead.
Antrim responded, almost immediately and a good charge down almost resulted in an Antrim try. Some overeager defending from PSNI resulted in a penalty in front of the posts for Rowe to convert and tie the score at 3-3.
PSNI worked the ball back up the pitch but were faced with a resilient Antrim defence along their 22 metre line. With Antrim being penalised for going off their feet in the ruck, PSNI converted the penalty in front of their posts to take a deserved 6-3 lead.
It took 25 minutes for the Antrim boys to get proper possession. An Antrim scrum inside the PSNI half, allowed the backs to execute an excellent training ground move for Andy Calvert to go on an excellent break, beating a few PSNI defenders and sending John Bull through to the line to score the first try of the game. Toby Rowe converted and Antrim now lead 10-6.
After 30 minutes, Antrim allowed PSNI back into the game with some more poor discipline at the breakdown which resulted in another converted PSNI penalty and the score now a narrow 10-9 lead to Antrim.
Antrim replied instantly with another great training ground move off the base of the scrum. A nice move involving Gary Walker, set Neil Manson off on a mazy run, down the right wing to touch down between the posts to score for Rowe to convert and Antrim to lead 17-9.
At 35 minutes PSNI trundled their way up into Antrim territory through their pack and onto the Antrim 22 metre and once again some poor individual discipline from Antrim, allowed PSNI to convert another penalty to bring the score to 17-12.
With the seconds ticking until halftime, Antrim added their third try of the game. As PSNI kicked into the Antrim half, David Thompson gathered the ball from his own 10 metre and took off on a great 60 metre solo effort down the wing to score in the corner. Rowe struck the post with the conversion and Antrim went into the half time break with a 22-12 lead.
Coach Smyth encouraged his boys to kick on in the second half after some poor discipline at the breakdown, but to maintain the good defence and be sure to utilise the space.
The second half began just like the first as both teams sized each other up for the opening 10 minutes which resulted in Ryan Millar leaving the pitch with injury, to be replaced by Robert Nimmo.
With Antrim, beginning to pressure PSNI, on half way, a sliced clearance kick from PSNI was well taken by David Thompson on the wing, who took off down the touchline, once again, to score in the corner for Rowe to convert, as Smyth’s boys now held a 29-12 lead.
The game was far from over, and at 60 minutes PSNI worked their way back into the Antrim half through some excellent work around the pack and a series of driving mauls. A driving maul from a PSNI lineout on the 22 metre, was trucked right over the try line despite some brave Antrim defence, missing the conversion as Antrim’s lead was cut at 29-17.
At 70 minutes Antrim added their fifth try of the day through a neat dash from Toby Rowe into the corner. It came at a welcome time as PSNI began to increase the pressure. Rowe failed to convert but the Antrim outfit now lead 34-17.
Rowe’s try had evidently knocked the wind out of PSNI sails and after a comedy of errors in the PSNI defence and some good footwork from Rowe, he added his second and Antrim’s sixth, following a jinking run through the centre. He converted as the game drew to a close at 41-17.
Coach Smyth was enthused with how the boys had applied some training ground work on the playing field. He showed disappointment at the penalties conceded but was delighted with how the boys executed their set play moves during game. He concluded that he still believed the boys could play better again.
Smyth presented the MB Hire Man of the Match award to Martin Barr for his excellent work in the tight areas and never shirking a tackle during the game.
Antrim now face Letterkenny in the McCambley Cup this Saturday at Antrim Grammar School pitches.

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