Larne 1st XV consolidated their position at the top of Kukri Qualifying 3B with a 31 -3 win over third placed Randalstown on a cold Saturday afternoon at the Glynn playing fields.
The Glynn was one of the few venues that was able to host a game after a few days frost and though the pitch was in good condition the strong blustering wind circling the pitch made handling conditions difficult for both teams in an error strewn first half.
Randalstown started the game brightly with their back row prominent in early exchanges. A barging run by No 8 Coulter put the visitors in the Larne half and after a period of pressure out half Ryan Wilson stepped up to slot over a penalty awarded for a scrum infringement to give Randalstown a 0 – 3 lead.
Larne hit back almost immediately with a beautifully struck penalty from out wide by Larne’s out half Ryan Garrett and before long Garrett kicked Larne into the lead with another penalty in front of the posts putting the home side in the lead 6 – 3.
Despite the conditions both teams tried to play rugby but several handling errors coupled with sound defence from both sides led to a period of stalemate with neither side making much headway.
Garrett, kicking exceptionally well in difficult conditions, added a third penalty for Larne and with no further opportunities for either side the teams turned round with Larne in the lead by 9 – 3.
Larne looked to up their game in the second half and Garrett kicked well to keep Randalstown pinned in their own half. However Randalstown’s lineout performed well and the throw ins were a constant source of ball for the visitors. Larne’s midfield defence prevented the visitors from breaking out of their own half and approximately twenty minutes into the second half Garrett stepped up to slot over another penalty to give Larne a nine point lead with the score at 12 – 3.
Randalstown were forced to try and open up the game in search of a try but the home defence held firm and Larne began to get on top at the breakdown. Following good runs from veteran full back Stephen Marshall, prop Mark McMullan, second row Johnny McFetridge and the rumbustious James McCluggage, Larne managed to work some space in midfield for feisty winger Reece Thomas to score under the posts. Garrett added the extras to take the score to 19 -3.
The score line, and the cold, seemed to get on top of Randalstown who allowed Larne to run in two more tries with wing forward Ryan Maybin scampering down the wing for the first and Thomas blasting through a disinterested defence for his second, and the final, touchdown of the game.
Fittingly it was Larne’s Man of the Match Ryan Garrett who had the final say converting Thomas’ second try with the last kick of the game to give Larne a deserved, if somewhat flattering, win by 31 – 3.
Larne 1st XV: Mark McMullan, Craig Gibson, Danny Hagans, Daniel Garstin, Johnny McFetridge, Eddy Hunter, Ryan Maybin, James McCluggage, Ricky McIlhern, Ryan Garrett, Reece Thomas, Gary Knox, Gary Mills, Johnny Mulligan, Stephen Marshall.
Randalstown 1st XV: R.Loughlin, S.Finlay, D.Millar, M.Millar, M.Allen, D.Wilson, A.Fleck, L.Hurrell, J.O’Kane, R.Wilson, B.Winter, W.Montgomery, N.Paul, N.McGlade, C.Coulter