What a difference a week makes for Randalstown Rugby Club First XV, after a superb 25-15 win at Ballymoney at the weekend.
‘Town took to the field with captain Dan Wilson, recovered from injury and back in action showing why he remains pivotal to this team as he led once again by fine example.
Traditionally Randalstown started slowly and with barely 10 minutes on the clock allowed Ballymoney to rack up 10 points.
They then proceeded to squander 2 penalty chances and were forced to defend the line and prevent a further score judged to be held up by McBrien.
Thankfully they established some rhythm but the home defence was equal to the task and a good attacking move broke down. Ballymoney continued to look for any chance to attack and another speedy break was only stopped when McWhirter raced back to make the tackle as the scoreboard read 10-0 in the hosts’ favour at the break.
The half time team talk must have been interesting given that coach Longwell was visibly irate and ‘Town had squandered 9 points and the lion’s share of possession.
Michael Smith was having a competant game at full back and he jinked a kick through to touch gaining some useful yardage.
The home lineout was working well and although they easily won back possession they opted for a chip which Knowles read superbly, charged down and followed up to touch down. McGlade converted and it was game on again.
Young Donnelly popped up again to win a penalty and from the resulting lineout Wilson sped in. ‘Town now had a slender lead and it was still nip and tuck.
McBurney gathered the restart and ensured that possession was maintained and when the ball went loose Stevenson hacked through. Wilson was able to pick up and ship out to Mason and the young scrum half sped in.
Next up on the opposite wing Ryan McGarry had a decent chance and was harshly penalised for holding on.
This gave the home side the chance to kick long to touch and regain some territorial advantage. ‘Town were forced to defend for a considerable time and eventually Ballymoney were able to push over from a 5m scrum.
Knowles came close again shortly after and Crawford almost made it over, doing enough to gain a 5m scrum for ‘Town. The set piece hadn’t functioned particularly well for ‘Town but Wilson managed to gather at the base and charge in out wide.
‘Town turned the ball over again from the restart and McBurney took a quick tap and gained a further penalty.
The ref walked the home side back a further 10 yards and ‘Town opted for the long range effort which McGlade knocked over to round off the game.
The top of Qualifying 2 makes very pleasing reading for the ‘Town faithful as this win took them into pole position.
This Saturday the 1st XV host Lisburn in the Junior Cup at Neillsbrook, while the World Cup on the big screen in the clubhouse is another attraction.
Virginia 22, Randalstown II 12: The Seconds made the long journey to Virginia but came away having failed to pick up their first win of the season.
They started brightly moving the ball freely, but unfortunately couldn’t put points on the board and it was the home side who opened the scoring a quarter of an hour in.
Capitalising on ‘Town losing 2 successive lineouts they were initially held up on the line before slipping round the side of a maul to touch down.
Ten minutes later poor tackling from the ‘Town backs allowed Virginia in for a second converted score.
Turning round 12-0 down ‘Town again started the half well but again ball didn’t go to hand on halfway, and when it went loose it was seized by a Virginia back who ran in for a converted try.
The visitors got on top after this score as the home side had 3 players shown the yellow card at intervals during the half and eventually on 55 minutes a good steal at the front of the lineout by Jacob McCollum saw Peter Thompson gather, and the sturdy prop burrowed his way over for a try, converted by Conor Murray.
Shortly after, when the home side coughed up another penalty on their own 22, ‘Town took a quick one and Murray sliced through the defence to touch down. The home side sealed the win with a final penalty however leaving Randalstown disappointingly defeated.
Manager Sloane is confident that a win is not far away for his talented group of players. A big plus on Saturday afternoon was the way they were able to secure possession, rarely getting turned over. Michael Patterson and James McCollum impressed in the pack on the day.
Randalstown III 24, Cooke III 10: The men in red and white started brightly showing early dominance in the scrums, eventually this pressure paid dividends with Jamie Barron knocking over a penalty to open the scoring. The Town continued to dominate,working they way up the field and camping on the Cooke goal line.
After several near misses captain Ash McClenaghan opted for a scrum from a penalty 5m out and he duly barrelled over the try line after pick and drive from the base of the scrum.
Randalstown slacked off after this, letting Cooke dominate possession and territory. They ran in two converted tries before half time through their strong running centre, going into the break 14-9 to the good.
Randalstown started the second half with renewed vigour again dominating up front and controlling possession, a scrum in the middle of the park saw the ball worked wide to fullback Vernon Thom, with seemingly little on, he grubbered ahead and beat the defence to touch down in the right corner. Jamie Barron added the extras superbly from a difficult angle.
Having regained the lead, Town were determined not to relinquish it and again set up camp in the Cooke half and laid siege to their goal line.
A quick snap to the left allowed Joel Mulholland to exploit the space and touch down in the corner, again Jamie Barron expertly added the extras to complete the scoring on the day.
This was a pleasing performance for manager Aaron Murray against a strong Cooke team and hopefully will act as a kickstart to the 3rds season.
The scrums were excellent which is testament to a good pre-season for the front five and newcomer Johnny Watterson had a notable shift on the flank.
In the backs it was encouraging to see the return of Blayne Megarry who always looked dangerous with ball in hand and Jamie Barron was excellent both kicking out of hand and off the tee.