REPORT Randalstown U14’s secure third consecutive Ulster final spot.

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Randalstown Youth Rugby Under 14 Team
Randalstown U14 vs Ballymena U14 18th April 2015
Randalstown U14’s secure third consecutive Ulster final spot.

Randalstown U14 youth team hosted local rivals Ballymena Rugby Club at Neilsbrook playing fields in the Semi-final of the U14 Plate Competition. Playing conditions were perfect on this bright spring morning.
First half
From the kick off Randalstown started with conviction claiming the ball, with Dominic O’Connor taking play up to the Ballymena 22 meter line. A strong ruck was formed which sucked in the Ballymena defence. Seamless running and passing between the backs and forwards pressurised the Ballymena defence deep inside their own 22. After a second phase of play the ball moved across the pitch stretching the opposition; Peter Cullen, Ciaran O’Neill and Dominic O’Connor all passed the ball with pace and Jack Johnston finally finished with a quality score in the corner after only the first few minutes. The conversion was missed.

Immediately from the restart Randalstown kept Ballymena on the backfoot, with Peter Cullen kicking and following up just knocking on at the Ballymena 5 meter line. From the resulting scrum the excellent scrummaging technique from the Randalstown forwards started to show as they forced the turnover against Ballymena’s much larger pack. Randalstown’s scrum continued to move forward allowing No. 8 Eoin McDonald to pickup at the base and score. The conversion was missed.

After a number of questionable penalties conceded by Randalstown, Ballymena gained possession but made little progress as the Randalstown team now demonstrated their defensive qualities by repeatedly pinning the Ballymena team back in their own half.

When Randalstown had ball in hand they repeatedly probed the Ballymena defence with the running rugby we are accustomed to seeing from this young team. Again forwards and backs combined with ease. Quick ball from Oran Gilbert allowed Eoin McDonald, Dominic O’Connor, Peter Cullen, Ciaran O’Neill, and Matthew Luke to break the gain line with Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle showing his turn of pace and scoring the try. The conversion was scored by Oran Gilbert.

At this point in the game the Randalstown boys showed the quality of their kicking game, with Peter Cullen placing a kick deep into Ballymena 22 with Jack Johnston gathering and running play up to the opposition’s 5 meter line. An error from Randalstown resulted in a penalty, however it was notable at this stage the Ballymena team opted for the kick to touch for position. Previously Ballymena had opted to take a quick tap penalty, which the Randalstown boys had defended so well.

Time and time again Randalstown regained ball with a number of strip balls from Dominic O’Connor, and the combined efforts of Eoin McDonald, Correia Miguel and Ciaran O’Neill held the Ballymena players up in the choke tackle. The backs Peter Cullen, Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle, Jack Johnston, Matthew Luke, Ethan Higgins and Cormac Devlin created a mean defensive line which stopped the Ballymena backs getting any forward momentum. The boys also displayed a stout defence in and around the breakdown with excellent tackling at the fringes from Brandon McAllister, Fionn Johnson, Joel McCavana, Ross Swann stopping the opposition forwards from getting any movement forward.

Again searing runs from forwards Dominic O’Connor, Ciaran O’Neill and Miguel Correia created the space out wide for the backs. This time a beautifully weighted cross-field kick from Peter Cullen, and an equally well timed paced run from Matthew Luke allowed him to pounce on the ball in the corner to score. The conversion was missed.

Against the run of play Ballymena did score a try, notably from a penalty where the referee played advantage to the halfway and allowed Ballymena to take a quick tap penalty back at the Randalstown 5 meter line to score. The conversion was missed.

Half time score; Randalstown 22 : 5 Ballymena

Second half
Randalstown started the second half where they had left off with the forwards combining superbly to turn over ball. Ciaran O’Neill’s pace in tackling, Dominic O’Connor’s jacking to turnover ball and great runs from Miguel Correia and Eoin McDonald all proved too much for the Ballymena boys who where pinned deep in their own half. The relentless pressure told as Peter Cullen made a break and ran up to the Ballymena 22 meter line. A quick ball from Oran Gilbert was fed to the running prop forward Joel McCavana and then to Dominic O’Connor who showed a clever instep and pace to score under the posts. Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle scored the conversion

As the game was opening up Ballymena did get a few breaks, but these were short lived as Cormac Devlin snuffed them out with big hits as he patrolled the fullback position. After a number of injuries to Ballymena players, play restarted. The now tiring Ballymena defence could not cope with a blistering run from Peter Cullen who wove through a number of their players to score.

From the restart Oran Gilbert kicked ball deep into the Ballymena 22, and a chase from Jack Johnson forced the Ballymena fullback to knock on from the scrum. The Randalstown scrum that dominated all game again provided a clean ball to allow Owen Gilbert to pass to Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle who cut through the disjointed Ballymena defence to score his second try of the game. The conversion was missed.

In the few minutes that remained in the second half, Randalstown exhibited their resolve with Ciaran O’Neill, Joel McCavana and Brandon McAllister holding a Ballymena player up in the maul to win the putin to the scrum. This proved its worth because from last set piece Randalstown were able to pass ball from the scrum to Cormac Devlin who made a cracking run taking play up to the Ballymena 22. Cormac Devlin then offloaded to Stephan Gabbidon-Lyttle to score this third and final try of the game. The conversion was scored by Oran Gilbert.

A special word of thanks is extended to Slemish College who made arrangements to allow three players to attend the match as they were involved in their bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition.

The match finished Randalstown 46 : 5 Ballymena
Randalstown MAN OF THE MATCH goes to the WHOLE TEAM for another great team performance and getting to the Plate final.
Randalstown Under 14 Team – Peter Cullen, Oran Gilbert, Eoin McDonald, Cormac Devlin, Dominic O’Connor, Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle, Joel McCavana, Jack Johnson, Ciaran O’Neill, Brandon McAllister, Fionn Johnston, Miguel Correia, Ross Swan, Matthew Luke and Ethan Higgins.

Coaches – John Kennedy, Sean O’Connor and Ivan Millar

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