Randalstown First XV claimed a 36-22 victory over neighbours Ballymena Seconds in Saturday’s COnference League fixture at Neillsbrook.
The jury is still out on the usefulness of the format of the competition, particular from a Qualifying league standpoint.
It should represent an opportunity for teams to experience a different standard of opposition as they play against senior 2nd XVs but a quick glance at Saturday afternoon’s results makes interesting reading as the victorious teams were the Qualifying 2 teams.
A large crowd turned out on a pleasant October afternoon to see this particular Conference league game between two old local rivals.
The game stared at a hectic pace with each team determined to play open rugby and for the first ten minutes. There were a number of attacking moves which nearly resulted in scores for both sides, however it was the visitors who opened the scoring after 12 minutes with a well worked try which they converted.
It was not long until Randalstown were back in the game, when after some good work by the forwards Peter Knowles crashed over in the corner. Mason narrowly failed to convert. Ballymena were soon back on the attack and increased their lead with a second unconverted try.
A penalty by Mason and a good try from Micheal Smith turned the game in favour of the home side, but it was shortlived as the Ballymena centre scored a well executed try.
The second half continued with both sides determined to keep the ball in hand and it wasn’t long before Jamie Orr got a well worked try after good work by Dan Wilson and Shane McBurney. Burly hooker Scott Stevenson added his name to the scoresheet as he dived over after a twenty metre dash to the line.
The teams exchanged penalties and with ten minutes left the score was 29-17 in Randalstown’s favour much to the delight of the home support. Ballymena however narrowed the gap with a try out wide with about 15 minutes remaining.
It fell to ‘Town to step up a gear if they were to close the game out, and indeed they finished on the attack as in the dying minutes Matty Mawhinney gathered a kick and went over for the final score of the game. Coby Mason stepped up with the conversion to cap a great display.
Coaches Gary Longwell and Alistair Strange were pleased with the team performance and in particular the scrummaging of the forwards and the defensive work in the backline.
This Saturday the Firsts travel to Banbridge in another conference league game while the Seconds are on the road to near neighbours Rainey in the league.
The Thirds were in action at Malone on Saturday afternoon but the match had to be abandoned early on due to an injury to the referee so it will have to be rearranged.