Antrim Rugby I XV 20 v Civil Service Rugby I XV 7

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After a long, season of despair, Antrim ripped up the form book in style as they put in a highly impressive performance against the Civil Service 1st XV at Allen Park on Saturday.
It was a game in which Antrim, bullied and stretched the Belfast outfit from start to finish as they put points on the board in both halves with tries from captain, Andrew Cameron and winger, David Thompson, supplemented with some classic Richard Manson kicking.

This fixture marked the long awaited return to Allen Park for an Antrim side that had not played at home since November. Both teams were met by the cold, wet conditions in which they did pretty well to overcome in the end

It was Antrim who came out the blocks first, with some great all round pack play as they shunted up the pitch, totally depriving Civil Service of any possession in the opening 10 minutes. This was complemented with some good backs moves as Antrim refused to let go of the ball. A resulting penalty on the Service 22, was slotted home by Richard Manson as Antrim had something to show for their territorial advantage.

Soon again, Antrim were back up in familiar territory with some good breaks from almost every member of the team bar Ricky Browning who did a great job of keeping momentum going by retrieving the ball throughout Antrim’s dominant spell. After a magnitude of phases, another penalty allowed Richard Manson to stretch Antrim’s lead to 6-0.

The lead however lasted for all but 5 minutes as Service, capitalised on one missed tackle through the centre and made a clear dart for the line against the run of play. The resulting conversion put Service into the lead at 7-6. Ironically it was probably the only tackle Antrim missed all day.

Antrim’s response was instantaneous, as the pack cycled the ball through a number of phases, crashing into the Service defensive line. Another penalty conceded by Service, was quickly taken by Andrew Cameron who caught everyone unawares, showing a blistering turn of pace, and leaving Service bodies in his wake as he weaved through for the line, for a great solo effort. Richard Manson sent the conversion over as Antrim went into halftime with a 13-7 lead.

The second half was more of the same as Antrim pressured the Service defence with some great lineout work and crash balls from Richard Manson, Darren Crooks and Andrew Chestnutt which took them deep into the Service half. Antrim’s pack and backs dominated an even bigger team and it had become evident that everything had come straight from the training pitch for Antrim.

Antrim began to move the ball with more fluency with Craig McIvor and Neil Manson making some ground as Antrim showed their unpredictability in attack.

Antrim pushed for a second try. A nice flowing move from the backs and a fantastic miss pass from Richard Manson, allowed winger David Thompson to capitalise and beat his man to ground the ball for Antrim’s second try of the game. Richard Manson sent a difficult conversion through the posts as Antrim sailed into a 20-7 lead.

Service changed their approach and began to gain ground through mauls into the Antrim 22. However some great defensive work from the whole Antrim team kept resulting in turnover ball, allowing them to clear their lines.

Service tested the Antrim backs with some deep probing kicks but these were mopped up comfortably by Gary Smith in full back with the support of his wingers.

Service pushed and probed some more but with the seemingly impenetrable Antrim defence, they were forced into errors and knock ons. Some fierce tackling around the rucks coming from Richard Robinson and a defiant Antrim defence was enough to keep Service at bay.

Antrim finished the game wondering how they did not score more, but should be encouraged with the overall team performance which was undoubtedly one of the best all round performances of the season. No one player stood out as every player put in a hard shift in the blue shirt. Final score Antrim 20-7 Civil Service.

A.Bickerstaff, R.Robinson, D.Crooks, P.McAleer, A.Chestnutt, J.Wright, D.Kenning, A.Cameron (Captain), R.Browning, R.Manson, D.Thompson, N.Manson, C.McIvor, E.Yorke, G.Smith.

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