Lisburn Rugby Club: I XV Gain First Win – 10 v Letterkenny Rugby Club I XV 9

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After their long trip to Letterkenny last Saturday the Tata Steel sponsored First XV finally won their first game of the season with a valuable victory over the improving Donegal outfit. Having lost their first three games of the year by narrow margins, but picking up bonus points in each, Lisburn were keen to put their injury worries behind them, but they still miss the influential presence of David Curry, Simon Rea, Richard Kindred and Alastair Finlay. Number 8 Mark Healy was back after a month’s absence and what a difference he made to the Lisburn pack in the atrocious weather conditions which they encountered.
Both teams tried to play rugby but with the ball acting like the proverbial bar of soap, it was difficult and the referee’s whistle sang a merry tune as the knock ons and dropped balls increased. Lisburn were also guilty of some rather aimless kicking into the arms of the home back three. Phil Jefferson, Peter Graham and Craig Ross put in a lot of solid work in the front row of the scrum and were on top in this department for much of the game.

The line outs were a lottery in the conditions but it was in the rucks where Letterkenny were doing much of the damage and during the first half of the match they out-rucked Lisburn on many occasions to put themselves into scoring positions. However, they suffered as much as the visitors in the dropped ball area and all they had to show for their territorial advantage was three penalties between the 30th and 40th minutes. It has to be said, however, that the Lisburn defence during this period of pressure stood firm, with Mark Healy and debutant Jonny Kelso to the fore, and their line was intact at the interval even though they had a deficit on the scoreboard of nine points to nil.
Coaches Kenny Millen and Mark Crothers gathered the team together for a heart to heart at the interval and they came out transformed in the second half. The pack immediately started to take the game to their hosts and they camped for long periods on the Letterkenny line in search of the breakthrough. On twenty minutes they were rewarded for their efforts as the pressure eventually told and prop Phil Jefferson was the man to take the ball over the line near the posts from a ferocious Lisburn drive. This and his work in the scrums earned him the Lisburn man of the match award. Scott Hughes converted the try to make it a two point game at 9-7. At this point the pressure that had been building up on the home team eventually told and a wayward punch by one of their props left the referee with no option but to produce a red card and the scrums moved to uncontested for the final quarter. Mercifully, the rain also stopped at this stage though the pitch remained sodden.
A penalty to Lisburn within reasonable kicking distance left their supporters thinking that this might be the breakthrough that the team’s efforts deserved but it was spurned due to white line fever and the opportunity went amiss. Five minutes later a more difficult penalty chance was also narrowly missed and with just ten minutes remaining the Lisburn support thought that they were going to run out of time. The Lisburn pack, however, kept plugging away and judicious use of the boot and dashing runs from the backs saw them bring the ball again into the Letterkenny 22 and a penalty opportunity presented itself with just five minutes to go. Scott Hughes was once again accurate with the boot and he put Lisburn one point in front at 9-10. The pack then took over with driving maul after maul to deny their hosts possession and they closed out the game to the final whistle.
This win was a just reward for all their pre-season work and will give them heart for the two tough games approaching over the next fortnight when they play Ballyclare and Enniskillen, with both matches at Blaris. The 2nd XV, following their fine 14-6 win over Ballymena 3s, have a free date next Saturday while the 3rd XV travel to play Ballynahinch 5s in what is sure to be another cracking game. Lisburn rfc are holding a pre match lunch with every home 1st team match for more info please go to

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