Randalstown RFC Notes: A GOOD DAY AT THE OFFICE: I XV 32 v Larne RFC I XV 18

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This was a seriously professional piece of work and the best display by this team in the last three years.

Before Randalstown left Bangor a week ago they knew they were good enough for this league, they also knew exactly what they had to put right and they simply came home and did it.

The lineout worked to near perfection with Neil Foster hitting his jumpers like a professional dart thrower and the Larne lineout was continually disrupted. The scrum was in no difficulty and dominant when necessary. Apart from a few offences on the ground, Randalstown were superior and much more skilful at the breakdown. For the hero in the pack, one can only refer the reader to the teamsheet. All eight were simply magnificent and to mention one name might in some way be seen as detracting from the other seven.

The defence was fast and aggressive and tackles were exactly that – the half tackles and fumblings of last week were only a distant memory. John O’Kane and Rab Fleck ran the game from half back, Neil Paul was a powerhouse at number 12, Darryl McGarry was poetry in motion, Peter McWhirter is back to his best and looks a serious prospect and Stephen Johnson and Niall McGlade were security itself.

This team always has been better, however, than the sum of all its part and that extra bit comprises motivation, mental strength and self-belief, combined with serious physical conditioning. Last week the motivation was mixed with a degree of apprehension in the new environment. This week the apprehension was replaced with conviction, aggression, application and the determination that there was only ever going to be one winner.

Larne did, however, take an early lead with a penalty and then a try when Randalstown compressed all their errors in the match into thirty seconds of abysmal play and even then it took a forward pass for Larne to cross the line. Between these two scores John O’Kane, following a breakdown near the line, produced a magical backhand flick, which mesmerised the close defence, allowing Johnny Adair to stroll over between the posts for O’Kane to add the conversion. A penalty by O’Kane and a fine try finished by Gary Hume, converted by O’Kane, made it 17 – 8 at the break.

In the second half Neil Paul and Darryl McGarry added two magnificent individual tries to secure the bonus point. The first was an exercise in power and determination and the second was crafted with silken skills and considerable pace. O’Kane supplied a penalty and one conversion, for a haul of twelve points on the day. Larne replied with a penalty and towards the end a very fortunate try when the excellent referee was unfortunately unsighted and missed a pass that was two metres forward. On top of this, the action replay appeared to show that the otherwise eagle-eyed linesman might have missed a foot in touch.

Having conceded two soft tries, Randalstown did not feel flattered by the scoreline, but, all in all, a good day at the office.

Coleraine 4th XV 0 Randalstown 2nd XV 0

Randalstown 2nds and Coleraine 4ths played out one of the rarities in rugby, a 0-0 scoreline at Coleraine.

In a game dominated by the referees whistle and scrums there were few highlights and only one kick at the posts as both sides struggled to get any continuity.

‘Town had the bulk of the possession but never really threatened the Coleraine line, while only some fine last ditch tackles from Harris, Smyth and Thom halted the few opportunities the home side had.

Only in the last quarter did the game spring to life as both sides when given the chance threw caution to the wind. By this stage ‘Town were reduced to 14 men with the loss of hooker Ricky Loughlin and were further hampered by injuries to Thom and Smyth.

Randalstown centres Thom and Smyth defended stoically all afternoon and were probably the most potent in attack. In the pack Harris and Hume worked their socks off while the front row always had the upper hand in the set pieces, so all in all it was a frustrating afternoon.

Team: N Hodge A Sloane V Thom D Smyth B Winter M Turner B Cathcart R Adair R Loughlin J Pedlow S Hyndman C Ferry S Goodrich I Hume D Harris.

Larne 3rd XV 39 Randalstown 3rd XV 26

Despite starting with only 14 men Randalstown 3rds scored 2 early tries in a lively start down at Larne. The first one came from Ash McClenaghan and then Joel Mulholland went over and proceeded to give a man of the match performance on the afternoon.

An early injury to Curly Hamilton swung the game in favour of Larne, as the home team started to recover from the early ‘Town scores.

Back up to 15 men with the later arrival of Adam Service, and a return to the fray by a hobbling Hamilton ‘Town added further scores from Asquith and debutant Phil Clyde.
However a further injury, this time to Clyde who took a heavy blow to the ribs saw ‘town once again depleted and Larne were able to capitalise on this and run out 39-26 winners.
Player/Manager Tommy Devlin took much encouragement from the performance and considering the non-availability of several players he felt it augered well for the season. Ferghal McConnon and Ash McClenaghan formed an awesome (if out of position) pairing in the centre and Devlin also saw fit to mention the half back pairing of Frew and Johnston, along with the backrow performance of Clyde as praiseworthy.

All 3 ‘Town teams suffered injuries on Saturday which we hope are all not too serious at this early stage in the season. Next weeks the 1st XV travel to Carrick, the 2nd XV are at home to Lurgan and the 3rd XV travel to Donaghadee. All players are encouraged to attend training as usual on Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm.

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