REPORTS Randalstown I XV 21 v Academy RFC I XV 31 & II XV 20 v Monaghan RFC II XV

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Randalstown 1st XV 21 Academy 31
It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the Randalstown senior section on Saturday with the 1st XV disappointingly losing to Academy at Neillsbrook, while the 2nd XV recorded victory in Monaghan and progressed to the semi-final of the Forster Cup.
At Neillsbrook Randalstown started the game strongly and with only a few minutes on the clock went ahead through a Daniel McGlade penalty. Academy however settled to their task and they were soon on the score sheet with a well executed try in the corner. The rest of the first half was one of continuous Academy pressure on the Randalstown defence and by half time the visitors had built up a big 25-3 lead.
The second half saw a swing in the balance of the game with Randalstown putting pressure on the Academy line. Some good work in the backs saw scores from Daniel McGlade and Ryan Bailey. A further penalty brought the home side within three points of Academy. Two late Academy penalties sealed the points for the visitors.
Randalstown remain mid-table in Qualifying two with several fixtures still remaining. The inconsistencies on match day will no doubt be worked on in training this week as they strive to consolidate a mid – top end of the table finish in the league. The firsts travel to UUC next week.
Monaghan 2nd XV 16 Randalstown 2nd XV 20 (Forster Cup Quarter Final)
Meanwhile down in Monaghan it was a case of ‘Thank God for McGarry ‘ as the seconds eventually emerged victorious in a tough encounter with Monaghan. The game was end to end stuff and ‘Town trailed a couple of times throughout the game before finally knuckling down to the task and progressing to the next round.
Monaghan drew first blood with less than 5 minutes played as they slotted over a penalty opportunity. It was obviously going to be one of the those afternoons when the referee was going to be as much the talking point and ‘town should have learned an early lesson from this – but!
Still they shook the journey out of their legs and cantered up the left flank with Ben Winter making good yardage before the ball was passed along the backline to McGarry on the opposite flank and he raced in round the back of the posts. Murray missed the relatively straightforward conversion as the wind caught the ball and it hung high in the air before dropping short. It was hoped this was not an omen for things to come.
Monaghan were really fired up and from the restart they made good progress into Randalstown territory but a loose ball was well gathered by Mark Strange allowing Turner to clear the lines with a long punt.
The game continued in much the same vein for a further half hour without the scoreboard being troubled. Both teams put together some useful phases but the final pass just wouldn’t go to hand. Defence was also being tested and Ben Winter and Mark Strange caught the eye with some useful intervention. The centre pairing of Donnelly and Orr was working well in attack and this ensured that as half time approached the ball again found it’s way to McGarry and he swatted away two defenders to run in again behind the posts. Murray was on target with the conversion and it looked as though ‘Town were going to turn around 12-3 to the good.
Then the script was slightly rewritten as Monaghan converted two penalty opportunities in quick succession to narrow the gap to 12-9. Where was that half time whistle? With 45 minutes now on the clock a loose pass was intercepted by the Monaghan outhalf and he only had to run straight to touch down under the posts. The conversion was successful and the home side had a 16-12 advantage at half time.
Despite being obviously tired the Monaghan boys continued to give Randalstown a torrid time in the second half, and ‘Town in return conceded penalties and allowed themselves to get into a little bit of disarray. James Millar entered the fray for ‘Town after several months absence and showed that he still had that ability to turn over balls in the ruck which was crucial at times.
Then up popped that man McGarry again to canter in for his hat-trick and restore a slender 1 point lead in favour of the visitors.
Again there followed a hectic period of play with no dividend at either end as the man in the middle continued with some bizarre decisions affecting both teams, until with about ten minutes remaining Randalstown began to stretch the tiring home defence with some good phases of play culminating in a penalty opportunity and they wisely opted to take the points courtesy of the boot of Murray.
Gary Hume, Matty Turner and Jamie Orr tackled like demons throughout the half, and Vernon Thom showed a few nice touches when he came on, unlucky not to score out wide at one point.
Randalstown clung on for the remaining time with the numerical advantage as Monaghan lost their influential out half through injury until after what seemed like an eternity a penalty blasted into touch was followed by the final whistle.
Manager Sloane was delighted with the win but he did warn his troops that lack of discipline and concentration, and only playing to the best of their ability in fits and starts was not going to cut it in the closing stages. That said the Randalstown defence was good and the pack were always in the ascendancy in the set piece.
Man of the match had to be Ryan McGarry with his hat-trick on the afternoon as he proved again he is dangerous from just about any range.
Next Saturday the 2nds entertain Ballymena 4ths at Neillsbrook in the league, potentially a title clincher for them.

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