Randalstown 1st XV 12 Carrickfergus 1st XV 27 (Junior Cup)
Having beaten Carrick away a few weeks previously there was a reasonable expectation that this Randalstown side could make progress to the 3rd round of the Junior Cup having the advantage of a home draw. It was not to be however as on the day Carrick proved the hungrier and ultimately superior side.
The opening exchanges were fairly scrappy from a ‘Town point of view as they put themselves under needless pressure with some loose tackling. Carrick took full advantage and went in under the posts to set up an early 7-0 lead.
In contrast the pack was giving the visitors all sorts of problems and from a set piece on the halfway they made progress as the ball went to McGlade coming in off his wing at pace. He found Thom, making his first appearance in the 1st XV lineout for some time, and Thom made good ground into the Carrick 22. Goodrich gathered the loose pass and the ball was well recycled by the pack with James Millar almost driving over, but in the end it came wide to David Smith and he sprinted in. The conversion came off the left hand upright.
Buoyed up by the score ‘Town continued to pressurise Carrick for a time and were rewarded for their efforts by a kickable penalty opportunity. The normally reliable O’Kane hadn’t quite found his range however and the attempt sailed slightly wide.
In the closing stages of the first half Carrick again had the upper hand and pinned Randalstown deep into the 22 opting to go for touch with a penalty opportunity that looked kickable. Clean ball off the top of the resulting line out saw them go through multiple phases until the ball popped loose and Dan Wilson pounced. He proceeded almost the full length of the pitch and then decided to cut inside, giving the last ditch Carrick defence an opportunity to stop him before what looked liked being a certain try. ‘Town were able to maintain possession through O’Kane at that stage, but then Carrick replied with an interception of their own and pushed ‘town back to halfway so the score at half time remained 7-5 to the visitors.
The 2nd half saw Randalstown exert a bit of pressure on the Carrick line and when a ball again bobbled loose captain Foster was alert to the opportunity and ran in unopposed under the posts.
Carrick soon equalised with a try out wide despite the best efforts of Wilson and Thom.
Turner and McClenaghan entered the fray to replace Pedlow and Goodrich, still carrying a bit of a hamstring injury. This disrupted the ‘town set piece slightly and Carrick took full advantage, breaking from a scrum on half way. One of their bulky forwards showed a turn of pace and completely wrong footed David Smith to break through. He was stopped by Thom but was able to offload and again Carrick scored out wide for another unconverted try.
Wilson almost popped up again from a loose ball but it was adjudged to have been knocked forward and Carrick again broke from the scrum. In the end they had to be content with a penalty, which proved kickable, to extend the lead to 20-12.
The final honours went to the visitors with a well worked try from the Carrick winger.
Randalstown 1sts are back in league action next week away to Limavady and no doubt coach Stevenson will have plenty of hard work planned for this week’s training sessions.
Belfast Harlequins 4th XV 43 Randalstown 3rd XV 18.
Randalstown 3rds travelled to Harlequins and ran into a formidable home side. Despite putting in a spirited performance they were well beaten by a side which exuded class and confidence.
‘Town’s preparation had been hampered slightly by a number of players getting stuck in Belfast traffic en route to Deramore, although centre Simon Moon found the backlog a boon as he managed to demolish 16 chicken wings during the enforced delay.
Town actually took the lead with a fine strike from Tommy Shannon, converting a penalty just inside the home 22. ‘Quins hit straight back with a try in the corner however, before adding a 2nd with 16 minutes played to edge 12-3 ahead.
Nathan Hodge then made a great tackle in midfield just inside the Quins 22. ‘Town got their hands on the ball and after a couple of strong forward drives won a penalty. Ash McClenaghan tapped and went quickly driving at the home defence. Held up just short the ball was shipped quickly to Marty Asquith who charged over under the posts. Shannon added the extras.
For the next 10 minutes ‘Town held their own, before the ‘Quins scrum half broke deep in their own half, and with good support from his fellow backs, they went over for an unconverted score to take a half time lead 17-10.
Any hopes ‘Town had of coming back into the game were severely dented on the restart. ‘Quins caught them napping and switched the kick off to their centre, away from the pack. He gathered the kick and released the winger to run in with ease.
Another Shannon penalty on 47 minutes was a brief respite as the home side really got on top.
The impressive ‘Quins backline ran in another 3 tries during 15 minutes of constant pressure, as ‘town just ran out of tacklers on occasion.
With 10 minutes remaining, and a scoreline deficit of 43-13 ‘Town showed great spirit in fighting back to score another try. Having worked their way into the home 22, ‘Town had a series of close calls as they drove hard to the line with McConnon and Loughlin both going close. Finally a penalty on the 5metre line after an infringement by ‘Quins at the scrum, was tapped to Loughlin who powered his way over for a deserved score.
This wrapped up an entertaining game mixing the class of the home back line with the spirit and hard graft of the visitors. Manager Tommy Devlin was disappointed by the score line but was definitely upbeat about his sides’ performance. Having lost the influential McClenaghan, and the promising Ricky Fowler (on his debut) during the first half his side battled hard and tackled themselves to a standstill. The front row of Spiers, Upritchard and Loughlin all worked hard and took a lot of ball, while Hodge and McKay were always to the fore in the loose. The backs had scant opportunity with ball in hand, but again worked hard in defence with Shannon, Sloane and McCann showing up well.
Next week the 3rd XV are back in action at Neillsbrook against PSNI 2nd XV while Randalstown 2nd XV entertain Cooke 3rd XV in the league. Kick off is at 2.30 pm as usual and all support will be warmly welcomed.