Randals-downed Antrim Lads Earn the Bragging Rights in Local Derby

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Antrim 12-10 Randalstown RFC

It was their first local derby in the Minor Leagues in almost 4 years but it was the Antrim boys who claimed the win,showing it was their town and not Randal’s town. In what was a good advertisement for local rugby, Antrim RFC emerged victorious with a 12-10 victory with tries from Jack Dempster and Rob Nimmo.

With the conditions bright and blustery, it was a competitive start with big hits coming from both sides in the centre of the pitch as both sets of players traded tackles and kicks throughout the jeers of the away support.

After 15 minutes, Randalstown found themselves deep in the Antrim half with a scrum. Against the run of play, a Randalstown overlap was brilliantly intercepted,just inside the Antrim 22 metre by flying fullback Jack Dempster , who sprinted clear of the remnants of the Randalstown defence to touch down between the posts for John Bull to convert as Antrim silenced the Randalstown support.

Antrim soon threatened to add more points through good breaks from David McKee and Neil Manson but were stopped by some good Randalstown defensive lines.

One of the key talking points came after 25 minutes as Randalstown completed the overlap with the winger sprinting miles clear of the Antrim defence. Antrim winger Simon Neve, covering from the other side of the pitch made a superb, last ditch, try saving tackle on the Antrim tryline to ensure Randalstown could not put points on the board.

However 5 minutes later, Randalstown were rewarded for their good pressure deep in the Antrim half and charged down an Antrim clearance kick on the corner to score as the Antrim men held the lead 7-5.

As the half began to draw to a close, some good lineout work from Antrim and Matt Dempster allowed Antrim to steal some ball to slow down the Randalstown play. Randalstown threw the kitchen sink at Antrim, who absorbed wave after wave of attack and cleared their lines through some good kicking from John Bull and Gary Walker.

At halftime, a very vocal Richard Smyth, made sure the boys were aware of the task ahead. He called on the boys to work harder for the victory and the second half just summed that up.

The Antrim boys responded well as the next 10 minutes were spent deep in the Randalstown half. As Antrim battered the Randalstown try line with good efforts from veteran prop, Billy Smith and John Bull, who would have crashed over the line had the referee not ran in front of him. Gary Walker was unfortunate in his own attempt to touch down but managed to knock on just at the try line for a Randalstown scrum.

The resulting scrum was won by the inspired Antrim pack and flanker Rob Nimmo was able to pick up the loose ball and crash over the line for Antrim’s second try of the game as the score now stood at 12-5 to the Antrim boys.

Antrim began to work harder, winning both Randalstown scrums and lineouts with some exceptional work from Dave Kenning at the breakdown. Rob Nimmo put on a tackling masterclass in the centre of the pitch as he halted the larger Randalstown players, time and time again. In between kicks, Mark Perry, Jack Dempster and Darren Crooks ran hard at the gutsy Randalstown defence but it was not enough to add to the scoreboard.

The game began to slow slightly as both sides made silly errors at the breakdown, much to the despair of both sets of supporters. Both teams continued to battle for possession in the centre of the pitch and trade kicks via John Bull and Gary Walker.

At 70 minutes, it looked like Antrim were going to add another try as winger Simon Neve, ran back a Randalstown kick from deep, shirking a few tackles before he was put into touch by the Randalstown defence, as tempers began to boil over in a few off the ball incidents, as Antrim remained composed.
As the game drew to a close, some late Randalstown pressure paid off and in the dying seconds of the game, they scored in the corner. Antrim were fortunate that the tryscorer opted to touch down unopposed in the corner, when it would have been easier to touchdown between the posts. It meant Randalstown had a difficult conversion which they would have needed to tie the game. As the conversion stopped short of the posts, the final whistle blew and the Antrim players and supporters burst into song.
In what was a great advertisement for grassroots rugby in Ulster, coach Richard Smyth was delighted with the result and how his boys refused to be intimidated by the away support. “It was superb win in which the boys played with both their heads and their hearts. The scoreline flattered Randalstown in the end. I am happy with how the boys responded but now we need to kick on from here and keep the momentum going for the rest of this season.”
The Man of the Match award went to winger Simon Neve, who was strong in defence and equally as impressive in attack in his first local derby game and his first season for the club. Honourable mentions go to both Dave Kenning who was formidable at the breakdown and Rob Nimmo who put in one hell of a 40minute shift.
Antrim face Ballymoney at home next Saturday.


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