Larne Grammar lost this third round Northern Bank Schools Cup tie against a powerful Friends School Lisburn by a score of 0 – 17. Despite the scoreline it was a closely contested game throughout with both sides creating chances in this bruising encounter.
Larne Grammar started strongly in bright sunlight and put Friends under pressure with the bulk of the play in the Friends half for the opening quarter. Tom Saunderson and Stuart McIlwaine set of on several probing runs for Larne but the Lisburn side were able to organise their defence and kept Larne out with a degree of comfort.
Friends then snatched the first score, quickly breaking up field and after a series of rucks the ball was delivered to the impressive centre, Vance, who forced his way through under the posts for the first try. Lewsley added the conversion taking the score to 0 – 7.
Larne attempted to hit back but pushed a penalty chance wide and it was Friends that finished the half the stronger.
Despite having a smaller pack the Grammar side began to get an edge in the scrum and line-outs and it was their advantage in these areas that kept Friends out as the Lisburn side pushed for a decisive second score. However with Friends outhalf McIvor coming more into the game, his orchestration of a series of driving runs from close range eventually saw No 8 McGuigan power over for the second try midway through the first half. Lewsley again converted giving Friends a 14 point lead.
All credit to Larne, who made a concerted effort to raise their game for a final push with Blair, Mitchell, Henry and McIlwaine all fashioning half chances. Unfortunately for the Larne side the final pass inevitably went astray under pressure from the defence and Friends had the final say in the game when Lewsley slotting a penalty with the last kick. Final score 0 – 17.
Friends thoroughly deserved their victory but the final score was not indicative of the effort put in by a gutsy Larne side in this highly entertaining encounter packed with interesting contests all over the pitch. Special mention to McIlwaine of Larne and Vance of Friends who both had outstanding games.
Larne Grammar now face Banbridge Academy on 6th February in the Quarter Finals of the Bowl Competition.
Larne Grammar: H Saunderson, J Mitchell, A McBride, J Henry, A Blair, S McIlwaine, R McKinley, B Brown, A McAllister, M Eastop, R Williamson, M Alcorn, J Agnew, J Johnston, T Saunderson (C). Replacements. P Ross, S Swann, M Robinson, B Hamill, R McAlister, A Carter, L Brownlee.
Friends School: C Lewsley, D Eastwood, M Cochrane, A Vance, P Pringle, R McIvor, B Semple, J MacCorkell, A Trimble (C), C Ross, J Robinson, R McCaughey, P Ferguson, J Vance, D McGuigan. Replacements: D Seeds, S Harris, A Bassett, J Dennison, P Anderson, B McMullan, J Thompson
Referee: Chris Logan