Despite the rather inclement weather conditions on Saturday afternoon Randalstown 1sts and 3rds were in action against Malone and Donaghadee respectively.
The 1st XV travelled to Malone to play the first of their Conference fixtures against a senior second fifteen. Injury and work commitments meant that Randalstown had to ring a few changes from the team that demolished Donegal a fortnight ago. This had no ill effect, with the visitors actually enjoying the better of the opening exchanges.
The first real opportunity to score fell to Ulster College squad man Niall McGlade who pushed a penalty wide on 10 minutes. This seemed to galvanise the Malone side who started to retain possession more easily, and make good use of their ball carrying front five.
Ferocious tackling by the Randalstown back row of stand in captain Liam Hurrell, Alex Fleck and late arrival Ryan Ings was impressive. Openside Fleck in particular was a nuisance and covered a lot of ground during the match. Relentless pressure from the Belfast side bore no fruit as scrum half John O’Kane was on hand to tidy things up on several occasions.
With 20 minutes played, a nice break from Adam Boyd released the ever expanding Paul Laverty, who smartly drew in his opposite man and put Ryan McGarry through to beat two men before running out of space and being bundled into touch.
The game became quite messy with both sides handling skills letting them down on several occasions. Some great defensive work again from the visitors further signalled Town’s intent to make a game of it and cause their senior opponents a few headaches. However on 30 minutes disaster struck for Town. A great running line from Malone’s 13 wrong footed a wall of Town players and he was able to run in under the posts for a converted try.
The second half kicked off with Malone applying pressure straight away. Their pacey backline was causing Town all sorts of problems and they simply ran out of defenders letting the Malone winger across in the corner. The conversion was missed.
This sparked Randalstown into life with outhalf Boyd controlling possession well. Great carries from D Millar and Ricky Loughlin got the visitors moving forward. Great offloading work and smart decision making by the Randalstown half backs saw these efforts converted into points as Liam Hurrell powered over for a fantastic score. McGlade missed the difficult conversation.
Randalstown were then reduced to 14 men after centre Paul Laverty sustained an injury to his back and had to leave the field. Despite this the visitors still were able to put pressure on Malone, although the game became very stop start as handling errors from both sides became the main feature of play and the scoreboard wasn’t troubled any further.
Team: Coulter, McGlade, Montgomery, Laverty, R McGarry, Boyd, O’Kane, Loughlin, Finlay, D. Millar, M Millar, Allen, Ings, A Fleck, Hurrell (capt)
Donaghadee 3rd XV 7 Randalstown 3rd XV 46
Randalstown 3rds travelled to sunny Donaghadee down to the bare bones in personnel, meaning that manager Tommy McCann and veteran Gregor Sloane had to take to the field to make up numbers, but they came away with an emphatic 46.-7 win.
In perfect playing conditions ‘Town started brightly and scored early after Devlin and McConnon combined well at the tail of a lineout on the Donaghadee 10 metre line. The home defence repelled a couple of surges for the line before flanker Michael Savage squeezed over for 5 points. Service added the extras with a fine strike.
Shortly after a searing break from Peter McCann took him into the opposition 22 where he popped to Curly Hamilton lurking on his outside. The town skipper, sporting a nice baby blue pair of boots, showed some nifty footwork and a surprising turn of pace to outstrip the defence and slide in to score in the corner. Having chalked up 12 points in about as many minutes Randalstown sat back and allowed Donaghadee back into the game. The home side camped themselves in the ‘Town half, but a few fumbles and some hard hitting tackles, in particular from McConnon, McCann, Moon and Pollen prevented them from scoring. Eventually from a lineout their outhalf found a gap and burst through to score and convert, bringing them back into contention at the end of the first half.
A tough half time talk from McCann and Hamilton encouraged ‘Town to start the 2nd half with a bang. Showing admirable control the pack gradually worked their way into the Donaghadee 22. Kenny Pollen, playing out of position in the centre, received the ball in the outhalf spot and after breaking a couple of tackles sprinted under the posts to give Service a straightforward conversion.
Donaghadee came back strongly but a good steal by ‘Town at a ruck gave Peter McCann and Ricky Duncan an opportunity to break up the wing. McCann had the pace to beat the defence to his kick through, and showed his footballing skills to dribble over the line and touch down between the posts. Again Service added the extras.
Peter McCann then added a long range penalty to his points tally before Randalstown put the game out of sight with another try. Good scavenging work from Pedlow and Reeves at a lineout on the halfway line presented the visitors with the ball and when it reached Pollen in the midfield he turned on the afterburners to go round the home winger and full back for his 2nd try of the game.
Donaghadee kept plugging away, but at this stage ‘Town were becoming more adventurous with Nathan Hodges and Michael Kennedy running the ball from everywhere, and it was Hodges’ break from his own line which created the next score. Town secured a scrum just outside the 10m line and the evergreen Devlin at number 8 broke and was held up just short of the line. Scenting a score the heavy brigade of Tommy McCann and Reeves moved in, and the 2nd row combo rumbled over, McCann claiming the score. Peter McCann converted.
As the game petered out McConnon, for the umpteenth time, ripped the ball from the opposition and charged off up the field from his own 10 m line. Fellow flanker Savage was on hand to continue the move, and when he was brought to ground near the 22, old hands Sloane and Devlin were on hand to secure possession. With the home defence in disarray Savage, quickly back on his feet, took full advantage to bull his way over for his second try, and the final score of the game.
Manager McCann and captain Hamilton were delighted with the result, the best since the 3rds reformed last season, and a great team performance. McCann was reluctant to single out a man of the match, but when pushed the ever improving Ferghal McConnon was his choice for an all action performance.
Team: Hodges Duncan Pollen Moon Kennedy P McCann Service Hamilton (capt) Sloane Pedlow T McCann Reeves Savage McConnon Devlin
Next Saturday the 1st XV are due to travel to Ballyshannon while the 2nds can look forward to an encounter with Ballymoney 4s at Neillsbrook (Kick off 2.30 pm)