Pic credit:- Marc Robert Lawrence
Grosvenor RFC 0 Randalstown 1st XV 15
You can’t help but be a little bit excited around Neillsbrook these days as another Saturday sees the 3 senior teams return victories. The 1st XV made it 4 in a row in Qualifying 2 consolidating their mid table position. As it sits they have a game in hand on Academy and having displayed some gritty displays in recent weeks will hope to unleash the potentially potent backline for some bonus point wins in the coming fixtures to ensure a finish in the top half of the league. The 2nd XV keep beckoning all comers and yet again saw off the opposition in Junior 4 with a 9th win out of 9. The 3rd XV welcomed PSNI 2nds in the opening gambit of the McCambley Cup and duly despatched them 29-10 to the delight of manager Murray.
The 1st XV travelled to Belmont on Saturday expecting a tough encounter with their old rivals Grosvenor. With a team still missing a few regulars the visitors started off strongly playing up the slope into a strong breeze. Good work by the forwards especially Neil Foster and D Millar gave Randalstown the upper hand in the first twenty minutes. On a couple of occasions the bulky Laverty was almost through only to be stopped by good Grosvenor defence.
Just afterthis Chrissy Allen broke the home defence and his strength and speed took him under the posts to open the scoring, O’Kane added the extra points. This score seemed to spur the home side into action but good defensive work by the Randalstown team kept the Grosvenor side from scoring.
The rest of the first half saw both sides attacks being stopped by tight defence, however with 30 minutes gone the referee awarded the visitors a penalty for offside and the reliable O’Kane extended Randalstown’s lead to 10-0.
The second half was a series of Randalstown attacks on the Grosvenor line but bad luck and a few handling errors denied the visitors further scores. After 60 minutes a slick passing movement saw Niall McGlade touchdown in the corner for a well taken score. With the last 20 minutes played in the increasing darkness of a December afternoon both sides tried to play open rugby but neither side could breech the others line. The final whistle gave Randalstown a well deserved win and Grosvenor were left with little for all their hard work on an day when their injury problems continued to mount.
The coaching team of Gary Longwell and Alistair Strange were pleased with the team effort and the hard work of all the forwards especially captain Dan Wilson, Peter Knowles , D Millar and the experienced Jonny Adair. Behind the scrum good displays from John O’Kane, Paul Laverty and Michael Smyth all helped secure a well earned victory.
Captain Wilson was in good spirits back in the clubhouse and singled out the David Millar, returning after some weeks, the experience of John O’Kane and the mercurial Michael Smith as vital factors in this victory. Other opinions cited Paul Laverty as having a stand out game and the experience in the front row of Foster, Adair and Allen will always give you an edge.
The 1st XV now have a break until 3rd January when they travel to Enniskillen in the first round of the Towns Cup.
Our thanks to Grosvenor RFC for their usual pre and after match hospitality, and Randalstown RFC would wish their President a speedy recovery from his recent illness.
Randalstown 2nd XV 49 Ballymoney 3rd XV 3
Saturday morning saw a few last minute changes to the ‘Town second string and manager Sloane was nervous that this could be a potential banana skin for his merry men, particulary as he felt obliged to retrieve the kit from mothballs and prepare as front row cover. Thankfully these fears were unfounded as the seconds dispatched Ballymoney with ease and Sloane wasn’t called into action.
As has been very much the case in recent weeks Randalstown started quickly and Hamilton was first over the line in the opening exchanges following a good run by Ryan McGarry and good retention by the pack when he was held up short.
Shortly after McGarry was in hot pursuit of the line again but following turnovers from either side ‘Town were awarded a penalty which Murray slotted over to extend their lead. The game was definitely one sided at this stage and ‘Town attacked in waves. Ben Winter was unlucky not to go over but he just over-ran Murray and forced the full back to put the pass just forward. Ballymoney were struggling to contain a concerted Randalstown effort and gained no quarter from the set piece, with ‘Town turning ball over for a penalty. The resulting line out was messy enough but the home side managed to retain possession and following some barracking runs by the pack captain Hyndman was in pole position to gather and barge in. Murray added the conversion.
Now it was the visitor’s turn to enjoy a bit of possession until that man McGarry broke again from his own 22 and raced up the park. He was stopped illegally with about 10 yards to go but the support was there in numbers and Mawhinney got the touch down. Ironically with a man having an enforced 10 minute rest following the tackle on McGarry Ballymoney put their only points on the board courtesy of a very kickable penalty. Undeterred by this momentary blip ‘Town were straight back into the visitor’s territory. Conor Murray made a strong run up the left and Mark Strange was in support. When he was stopped short Goodrich was on hand for the offload and he ran in with ease to take the half time score to 25-3.
After the break ‘Town kept up the momentum and after 10 minutes McGarry scooted in under the posts for a well deserved try. This was the point when the difference in attitude this season became very apparent. Randalstown were merciless, as straight from the restart Scott Goodrich gathered and set off up the middle of the park. The pack were there in support to retain possession and when the ball was spread wide Winter got the opportunity he had been waiting for to slide over in the corner.
The foot might have come off the gas slightly at this point but having failed to find touch from a penalty in the middle of the field Pedro Conceicao gathered the visitor’s clearance attempt with a bit of a juggle and set off up the right flank. The hooker just couldn’t outpace the Ballymoney defence and he was pushed into touch after the move of the match.
Some static play ensued until ‘Town found the far flank and substitute Mark Paine made the yards to the line. ‘Town were lining up to carry and ruck by this stage and Hamilton sped away up the middle but took the least plausible option when he opted to carry into traffic rather than releasing the speedsters outside him. Situation duly recovered saw a ‘Town lineout won cleanly and fellow prop Adams took advantage of some loose play by the visiting defence to hack through, follow up and touch down. Obviously he had run off the effects of the previous day’s nuptial celebrations in the closing minutes of the match. Murray added the final conversion and it was job done.
Again it was incredibly difficult to pinpoint an individual performance. Conor Murray continues to impress at full back, but was uncharacteristically inaccurate with the boot on the afternoon. There is a core of young players fresh from school last year and it was obvious at times that the lads, Strange, McCombe, Mawhinney and McGoldrick, had played together for some time as they seemed to instinctively know the support was there. Mawhinney is a strong runner in the centre, McGoldrick has switched effortlessly into the outhalf berth following several weeks at scrum half, and Strange and McCombe give of their all in the pack. It was comforting for manager Sloane that following a call up for Donnelly he had the luxury of bringing Ryan McGarry in on the wing to deputise and McGarry showed the opposition a clean pair of heels on several occasions throughout the game.
Next Saturday sees the seconds entertain nearest rivals City of Derry 3rds at Neillsbrook. Can they keep up this unbeaten run and go into a Christmas break having beaten all their rivals in Junior 4? Turn up and see – all support is as usual very welcome, particularly for this crunch game.
McCambley Cup 1st Round Randalstown 3rds. 29 PSNI 2nds 10
Randalstown welcomed the PSNI for this 1st round encounter in the McCambley cup on Saturday afternoon. Having lost to them in the league Randalstown were keen to make amends.
The initial encounter saw both teams probing round the fringes with little headway being made. Eventually Randalstown gained some territorial advantage and after a couple of strong charges by Ash McClenaghan in the opposition 22′ the ball was spun wide to Ben Joyce who finished in the corner to open the scoring. The PSNI however came back into the game working their way along the the touch line before setting up a driving maul from a line out 5m from the goal line. They inevitably levelled the score and gave Randalstown a much needed wake up call.
Returning to the basics, Randalstown got good ball off the top of the line out on the half way and simple hands again led to space for winger Tommy Shannon to speed in in the right corner.
This try was followed up by Bryan Gourley taking a great line in the centre allowing him to slice right through the opposition defence and score under the posts, the extras were added by Adam Service. This gave the home sheet a bit of breathing space on the score sheet. However a lapse in concentration allowed them in for a soft try leaving it 17-10 to Randalstown going into the final quarter.
Randalstown regained their composure and worked their way deep into opposition territory, good work by the pack was finished off by a strong drive to the line from substitute Thomas McCloskey, This score was quickly followed up by a try for Ash McClenaghan who completed a great game with a pick up at the base of the scrum to barge over the line, again the extras were added by Adam Service to leave the scores at 29-10.
Manager Murray was justifiably delighted by what was an encouraging win for the 3rds who now can look forward to a second round of the McCambley cup as well as a much anticipated meeting with Antrim at Neillsbrook on 20th December. There was a welcome return of Sam Maguire with a strong display at scrum half and Bryan Gourley looks well suited to the centre position.