Larne 2XV end the ‘streak’
Saturday 7th November saw not just Ireland exercise their demons against the Kiwi’s but also the 2XV at Larne Rugby club who until Saturday had not tasted victory at all in this current season nor in the entire 2015/16 campaign.
The men of Fortress Glynn, knew they were up against an almighty task as they faced off against league high fliers Ards 2XV who just last week had inflicted a heavy loss on an Omagh side who had in turn already comprehensively defeated Larne a few weeks prior.
The game kicked off with Larne playing into a strong wind which limited fly half Aaron McBride’s kicking options. He was unperturbed however and struck first with an early penalty to give the Larne men a 3-0 lead. The following 15 minutes saw a steady even contest with neither team giving a yard. Larne’s defence was massively improved upon last week with notable hits coming in from back rowers Johnny and Colin McKinty, hooker William Robinson and the imposing centre presence of Ian McIlheron, who set the physical standard for the day. As Ards enjoyed a sustained period of possession they were rewarded when a momentary lapse in the Larne defence exposed a gap which Ards quickly exploited to go in for a converted try. 7-3 Ards. The pressure following this try was telling when Larne having not enjoyed much possession for an extended period of play were punished again in similar fashion as the red defence was breached once again for another converted Ards try leaving Larne trailing 14-3. Larne renewed their defensive efforts and were not without some attacking opportunities of their own with just the final pass letting them down on several occasions
At half time the score remained 14-3 and Larne retook the field with the strong wind now at their backs however after a few missed opportunities Ards were first to register points in the second half with a well worked bit of play to go in for an unconverted try leaving the game at 19-3. With heavy defeats coming after the 60-minute mark in so many occasions of late the Larne Coach asked the team to stay focused and not let the floodgates open. He needn’t have worried. What followed was a fantastic comeback by the men in red who rallied around each other and responded with a try of their own through young outside centre Ty Mackness. The conversation was successful to take the game to 19-10 and the sudden registering of points spurred the red machine on no end.
Renewed intensity from 1-15 saw a cohesion in the team unit which had been missing in weeks past. It wasn’t long before Larne were in again through Fly half Arron McBride who showed a beautiful dummy pass to ghost through the wave of black shirts and register another converted try leaving the game poised at 19-17. Ards were clearly rattled at this stage and attempted to rally but the Red ascendancy was now in full flow with crunching hits going in from all players, not least a heroic try saving tackle from rising youngster and full back Jonny Wilson.
During the final spell of the game Jonny was involved in a silky piece of interplay with his cousin, second row Roy Wilson who having broken the Ards line offloaded to Jonny who in turn delivered a delicate pass to Ty Mackness who bulldozed his way over the line for his second try to give the Larne men a 24-19 lead with 8 minutes remaining. Larne maintained their composure and defended fiercely as Ards threw one last onslaught against the home team.
Second Half Substitute David Harvey’s high work rate paid dividends as he made continuous tackles to allow his team mates tired legs some more respite as Larne weathered the storm until a loose ball was scooped up by Marc Gilbert and booted into touch to end the game. Larne were ecstatic with the win and a special mention must go, not to a single player but to all the men of the 2XV who have not only maintained but grown their team spirit and camaraderie to extraordinary levels during some very difficult 18 months, without a win.
Match Report: Richard McIlheron.