Randalstown 1st XV 33 Virginia 5
After a recent disappointing defeat at home to Newry Randalstown 1sts were back in action on Saturday at Neillsbrook, this time entertaining Virginia. With a raft of regulars unavailable it was a much changed side that took the field and it took ten minutes for them to find their feet, during which time Virginia kept them pinned in their own 22. Despite this the defence held well, thanks in no small measure to some excellent scrummaging and a fine clearance kick by Wilson gave ‘Town a fine attacking opportunity which Montgomery almost managed to take advantage of.
Virginia didn’t travel the considerable distance to make up numbers though and when a penalty opportunity was missed they attacked straight from the restart. Eventually a gap opened in the home defence and the Virginia outhalf kicked through cleverly for his winger who touched down in the corner.
Encouraged by Maguire at scrum half the town pack gained good yards with a fine rolling maul. Laverty then took the pass and made good ground before shipping to Coulter, who ran a fine line at pace, then released McGarry. Within inches of the line McGarry was bundled into touch but managed to keep the ball in play with the help of Wilson. The visiting defence had time to regroup slightly at this stage but ‘Town kept the heads and the possession giving 2nd row Harris an opportunity to take a pass at pace and he wasn’t being stopped from reasonably close quarters. McCann added the conversion to nudge ‘Town into the lead.
A further penalty opportunity followed for McCann which he was pleased to convert and a 2nd opportunity on the stroke of half time was again slotted over to give ‘Town a 13-5 lead at the interval.
Virginia continued to defend well against the Randalstown efforts at the start of the second half until Coulter found a hole and scrambled in. McCann added the extras.
When one of the Virginia players had to withdraw injured from the fray it looked as though ‘Town should be home and dry. McCann had added another penalty to give them a 23 -5 cushion and they were continuing to put some useful attacking phases together but it was another 10 minutes before the scoreboard was troubled again.
Ryan Ings was as usual making his presence felt in the lineout and around the fringes, and more finely timed running from Craig Coulter saw the visitors under pressure deep in their own half and struggling to clear. After a series of penalties the ball was spread to William Montgomery and he finished clinically.
Virginia’s complement was further reduced, courtesy of the referee this time, giving Randalstown a 2 man advantage and Ryan McGarry took full advantage of tired Virginia legs with an excellent solo effort. He gathered just outside his own 22 and outstripped several of the opposition defence to touch down in the corner. McCann narrowly missed the conversion from out wide leaving the final score 33 – 5 in favour of Randalstown.
Coach Stevenson was understandably delighted with the result which may well give him some selection headaches in the coming week. The ‘Town scrum was mighty and the effort of every man from 1 to 15 was such that it would be impossible to name an individual man of the match.
Team: Coulter McCann Montgomery Laverty McGarry Wilson Maguire Stevenson Finlay Foster (capt) Harris Millar Hume Ings Pollin
Hollywood 2nd XV 0 Randalstown 2nd XV 60
Despite travelling to play Hollywood 2s with only 4 regular team members, Randalstown 2nds trounced their opponents 60-0. Manager Richardson was a forlorn figure as he left Neillsbrook with what was mainly a 3rd XV due to an alarming amount of cry offs, but he returned triumphant as his motley crew of youngsters and veterans ran in 10 tries while keeping a clean sheet.
‘Town started brightly but were dealt another blow when they were reduced to 14 men after only 10 minutes as Alex Park had to leave the field with a knee injury.
Now with numerical advantage Hollywood laid siege to the ‘Town line. The visitors however, led from the front by skipper Gary Walker, tackled ferociously and held the home side out.
This defensive performance galvanised the visitors and they gradually played their way into the Hollywood half with some good controlled rugby. Midway through the half, in a move initiated by fullback Service, 2nd row Gavin Rodgers found himself somewhat out of position at 2nd centre, and spotting the opposition fullback out of position, put in a deft punt behind the Hollywood defence. Dave Asquith like a rat up a drain was on the loose ball in a flash and darted over to open the scoring.
The home side’s collective heads went down and ‘town launched wave after wave of attack. Led by the pace and power of Asquith and Ferghal McConnon they battered the home defence and the scores came at regular intervals.
Good work up the blind side by Ben Hamilton and Ricky Duncan brought Randalstown close for Walker to whip the ball out to centre Simon Moon who was able to crash through his opposite number for the 2nd try. Joint man of the match Ben Winter, who had a great game in attack and defence, was next on the score sheet dribbling the ball over the line after Hollywood had spilled it in midfield.
One of the many McConnon barnstorming runs led to the next try. Having broken from halfway McConnon was eventually halted midway inside the 22 where Willie Fleck took over. The big winger was stopped just short but Walker was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and open his account.
The final try of the half started with a break by outhalf Adie Johnston. Fielding the Hollywood drop out the spritely GP set off on a mazy run and when he was unfairly bowled over chasing his own chip Walker tapped the resulting penalty and released the marauding McConnon who barged over in the corner.
Leading 29 – 0 at half time ‘Town could have been forgiven for taking the foot off the gas, but they didn’t ease up and scored again in the opening minutes of the 2nd period. More good work from Asquith and Reeves saw the ball reach the edge of the try line, which is Tommy McCann territory, and the big man didn’t disappoint as he picked up and crashed over.
As they did on numerous occasions throughout the game the ‘Town pack again stole ball at a maul and Hamilton and Walker combined to release Moon on half way. The centre still had a lot of work to do, but a combination of nifty footwork, powerful legs and determination saw him score under the posts.
Skipper Walker was on hand to pick up after a good break by Winter and weave his way through for his 2nd score of the afternoon.
A good throw from Hamilton then found Rodgers at the back of a line out on halfway. The ball was taken on by youthful flanker Sloane, who in turn sent Walker on his way with a deft pass. It wasn’t to be his day for a hat trick however but Sloane was quickly up in support and just failed to squeeze over the try line. That man McCann was again on hand to put his ample frame to good use and claim his 2nd try.
In the dying minutes Hamilton took a quick penalty just outside the 10 metre line. The young hooker drew the home defence before popping to Rodgers who strolled in under the posts for the final score, an effort he converted himself, adding to Johnston’s 4 earlier efforts.
Richardson was delighted with the team effort, which will hopefully give the selection committee a few points to ponder before next week. The beaming manager picked out Hamilton and Winter as his star men in a great team effort, which was based on a fine defensive performance. Town’s ability on the day to turn over ball at ease was the key to the runaway win.
Team: A Service W Fleck B Winter S Moon R Duncan A Johnston G Walker (Capt) M Reeves B Hamilton T McCann G Rodgers F McConnon A Park D Asquith G Sloane
Next Saturday the 1sts are due to travel to Harlequins in the conference section of the league while the 3rds travel to Donaghadee.