It was a busy afternoon on Saturday for Randalstown Rugby Club’s senior section with all three teams in competitive action.
Unfortunately only the First XV returned a victory, as both the Seconds and Thirds got a taste of life in higher divisions.
The Thirds were outplayed in the end by an experienced CIYMS side, while the Seconds, after an undefeated league campaign last season, experienced a taste of life at the next level, which whilst a learning curve, showed them what a major step up it is
Randalstown 15, Coleraine 10: Coleraine must be feeling that Randalstown are their bogey team after this defeat.
As had happened the previous week ‘Town conceded and early penalty to go 3-0 down but the pack, performing much better, won a penalty back and Connolly converted to level the scores.
Deadlock was broken with another penalty in favour of the home team, and Connolly was once again on target.
As half time approached ‘Town converted 2 long range opportunities with very assured kicks by Connolly into a fairly bracing wind, and they turned around 12-3 to the good.
The second half started with an early exchange of penalties. Some over exuberant defending from Connolly saw him take a 10 minute rest and with a fair bit of time remaining it was a nervous time for the ‘town faithful reduced as they were to 14 men.
The visitors did take advantage of being a man up, and when Chris Donnelly went down injured they played on exploiting the gap in the home defence to score a converted try.
Connolly returned to the fray in time to slot over another penalty and leave the visitors requiring a score to at least draw level. Randalstown again had a man in the bin for a late tackle and the visitors pressed the line. Yet another penalty enabled them to clear the line and end the agony.
Cooke II 25, Randalstown II 15: Despite a spirited performance from this still young Randalstown side they fell to a defeat against an experienced Cooke 2nd XV at Shaws Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
For the first 20 minutes of the game there was little to choose between the sides, but then a kick on halfway was charged down by the home team and with the bounce of the ball they scuttled away to touch down close to the posts for a converted try.
Before half time a great break by scrum half Mason, carried on by Paine & McLean saw ‘Town come close. A score was prevented in the end but a penalty rewarded and Murray opened his account for the season knocking it over for the visitors first points.
Cooke hit straight back and within minutes had stretched the visiting defence. After a couple of phases recycling ball they went over for a second try to stretch their lead to 12-3 at half time.
Within 5 minutes of the restart Cooke increased their lead when they turned over ball on the halfway line and created space for the backs to run in for another converted score.
‘Town however weren’t prepared to be overrun, and Mason was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with a great individual effort from a quick penalty but was stopped inches short of the line.
‘Town continued to put pressure on Cooke at this stage and from a midfield scrum on the Cooke 22 McLean broke off and linked with Mason and Michael Smith, whose pass put Connor Murray away to touch down.
Unfortunately ‘Town failed to build further on this and the home side took the game away from them with 10 minutes remaining when their centre stepped through the defence to touch down.
To their credit the young ‘Town side kept plugging away and on the final whistle they got their reward with a great team try.
Initiated by Thom inside his own half a number of players were involved and McLean made a significant break before Smith put the final pass away to Hyndman and the captain crashed over, just avoiding being held up over the line. Murray was on target with the conversion.
Randalstown III 5, CIYMS III 57: While the eventual margin of defeat was large, the Thirds played well for long periods of the game and were unlucky not to turn around facing only a 5-0 deficit.
To their credit the 3rds at 43-0 down made inroads into CI territory and with a strong scrum made it over the line but were held up. The resulting 5m scrum saw them put on another tremendous push and McConnon gathered at the base made a few yards and shipped to Thompson who had the sense to go low and barge over the line.
The 3rd XV will always have to absorb the impact of unavailability up the club, but there were many positives for manager Murray and captain McClenaghan to take forward.