Randalstown 15 – Lisburn 20
At Randalstown last Saturday, in a rain sodden match, Lisburn finished up their Qualifying League commitments by repeating their early season win over the home club. Played in very wet conditions on a soft surface, both teams tried to play attractive rugby but eventually it was down to Lisburn’s stronger pack and the astute play of their halfbacks Crothers and Finlay which saw them prevail in a keenly fought contest. After 15 minutes play Lisburn got the breakthrough which their early pressure warranted when number eight Mark Hill went in for a score from a five metre scrum and Crothers converted to give Lisburn a 0-7 lead. Randalstown then came back to create pressure of their own but a missed simple penalty on 25 minutes caused disheartenment. Crothers increased the Lisburn lead ten minutes later with a further penalty in front of the posts but following this Randalstown were unlucky to lose a player with a bad injury which required the match to be temporarily delayed. On the re-start Lisburn applied more pressure with Mark Hill going in for his second try of the afternoon. Just before the half time whistle the Randalstown full back, who had been playing well all afternoon, kicked a penalty to reduce the arrears to 3-15.
For most of the second half Lisburn were the dominant force in both the set pieces and loose exchanges but Randalstown, despite being down to 14 men, were playing with great spirit and keeping the visitors out when scores looked certain. The weather conditions were deteriorating all the time making running rugby a risk but on one occasion when they did decide to run with the ball, on the 30 minute mark, Owen Hilary was at the end of it to get the breakthrough score. While the difficult conversion failed, Lisburn were now in the ascendancy and with a 3-20 lead.
However, with just ten minutes remaining and with a good lead in the bag, Lisburn, thinking tentatively about a bonus point try, took their foot off the pedal and Randalstown did not need a second invitation. They started to run the ball freely and within eight minutes had scored twelve points through two tries and a conversion. The final two minutes saw Lisburn defend stoutly to run out winners by 15 points to 20.
Limavady 18 – Lisburn 19
After making the long haul up to the John Hunter Memorial Grounds, Lisburn at last put themselves back into the right space with a hard earned 18-19 win over Limavady. Having been pipped at the post in their last match, against Omagh, by seventeen points to eighteen, this was a game which they had to win in order to escape from the relegation zone. The early exchanges showed the urgency the visitors brought to their effort and within ten minutes they had opened up a six point gap, thanks to two finely struck penalties by scrumhalf Mark Crowe, the first from near the half way line. Limavady, on their home turf, were playing an expansive game and their running backs, prompted by Kiwi outhalf Greg Jordan, made numerous incisive breaks only to be closed down by good defending from the Lisburn cover in which Ally Finlay and Richard Kindred were outstanding. On 25 minutes Limavady narrowed the gap to 3 points following a well struck penalty from winger Pearse McNickle but almost immediately Lisburn extended their lead again after flanker Chris Cummings, what a find late in the season, made the initial burst and transferred to Kindred who ran to near the posts for a fine try. Crowe again converted to put Lisburn into a 3-13 lead.
On 35 minutes Limavady broke upfield following a surge by their pack and in a broken field situation their backs took possession and had a free run to the line. The conversion failed and Lisburn went in at the interval with a narrow 8-13 lead.
The second half commenced as the first one had finished with both teams throwing everything into attack but the defences in each case were up to it and the third quarter had closed before the next scoring opportunity presented itself and that fell to Lisburn when Mark Crothers again popped over another good penalty. However, this was nullified shortly afterwards by Limavady after outhalf Jordan kicked a great drop goal from the 22 metre line. 11-16 to Lisburn.
On the 30 minute mark good Limavady pressure eventually saw them take the lead for the first time in the match when for once Lisburn’s defensive backline failed to operate and a missed tackle allowed the homesters in for a well worked try. The McNickle conversion gave Limavady a narrow 18-16 lead and it looked as if Lisburn had shot their bolt. With just five minutes left on the clock Lisburn again worked themselves into Limavady territory where indicipline in the home defence once again provided the visitor’s with a penalty opportunity. Crowe, who had been kicking well all day, stepped up to the mark and sailed the ball between the posts to give Lisburn the all important 18-19 lead. Despite a number of heart stopping occasions in the end game, Lisburn held out to win and there were scenes of great rejoicing as their supporters raced onto the pitch at the final whistle. With a personal contribution of 14 points from the boot, scrumhalf Mark Crowe was Lisburn’s man of the match in this excellent and hard-fought game. In two weeks’ time, on 16th March, Lisburn travel to Randalstown for their final Qualifying Two league game in what could be a season defining match for both clubs.
Enniskillen 22 – Lisburn 5
Having drawn with Enniskillen at Blaris, courtesy of an injury time try for the visitors, an optimistic Lisburn side travelled for the return match at Mullaghmeen. However, a number of players were unavailable and this combined with the poor weather conditions to make it a disappointing afternoon for Lisburn.
Lisburn kicked off facing the elements and with the ball not travelling 10 metres Enniskillen had a scrum on half way. They used this to their advantage and were soon threatening the Lisburn defence to the extent that Lisburn were penalised on their own 22 for not rolling away from the tackle. The Enniskillen fly half stepped up and with the wind behind him was able to easily convert to give his side a 3-0 lead after only 3 minutes. From the restart, Lisburn took the game to Enniskillen and a fine run from Adam Melville almost breached the defence. Unfortunately, he was penalised for not releasing the ball when tackled and Enniskillen were able to clear the danger right up to the Lisburn 22. They won their lineout and moved the ball through their backs for Lisburn to be caught offside. The fly half again converted the penalty to bring the score to 6-0 to Enniskillen after 12 minutes play. With the strong wind behind them, Enniskillen were able to pressurise the Lisburn defence for long periods. Lisburn defended well and gradually worked their way out of trouble on several occasions. However, they were fortunate not to go further behind when Enniskillen had a try disallowed on 32 minutes due to a forward pass. The referee brought play back for a penalty to Enniskillen but this time the conversion was missed. Enniskillen continued to press forward but the Lisburn defence held firm and a Lisburn counter attack led to one of the Enniskillen centres having to leave the field with an injury picked up in making a tackle. Lisburn were unable to take advantage of the extra man and the half ended with the score still on 6-0 to Enniskillen. With the wind behind them for the second half, Lisburn had reason to feel reasonably satisfied with the half time score line. Enniskillen received a boost at the start of the second period when their injured player was able to return to the fray and they won a penalty straight away when once again a Lisburn player failed to roll away after making a tackle. This was duly converted to increase the lead to 9-0. Lisburn responded with a great run from his own 22 deep into Enniskillen territory by Adam Melville who evaded several tacklers in the process. Unfortunately, the support was not there when he was eventually brought to ground and he was penalised for not releasing. Enniskillen cleared and worked their way into the Lisburn 22 with a series of pick up and drives until Lisburn were penalised at a ruck. The conversion struck the upright but went over to bring the score to 12-0. Lisburn tried hard to get back into the game but the Enniskillen forwards appeared to find the conditions more to their liking and after 67 minutes they scored a drop goal following a ruck won in front of the Lisburn posts bringing the score to 15-0. Both sides were reduced to 14 men on 71 minutes when an Enniskillen player deliberately prevented Lisburn taking a quick penalty. This led to a skirmish and the referee showed the yellow card to a player from each team. Lisburn were coming more into the game and showed what they were capable of when Nick Kennedy went over in the corner for the first try of the match following a good handling movement involving both forwards and backs. The quick drop kick conversion was missed, leaving the score at 15-5 to Enniskillen with 5 minutes of normal time remaining. However, Enniskillen had the final say when their prop forward burst through to score under the posts. The try was easily converted to leave the final score at 22-5 in favour of Enniskillen.
Grosvenor 23 – Lisburn 26
At Belmont last Saturday, Lisburn gained a well deserved if narrow win over Grosvenor to complete the double in Qualifying League Two. Grosvenor were sitting 4th in the table and Lisburn in a pool of teams fighting it out at the bottom but by virtue of this win, Lisburn now lift themselves to 6th place in advance of their game next Saturday against third placed Enniskillen at the latter’s venue.
Grosvenor play a fast moving form of rugby, and with width, and so it proved for the first ten minutes, with Lisburn giving away just a penalty for going into a ruck from the side. The visitors then conceded a try after the Grosvenor scrumhalf weaved his way in from the 22 metre line and the conversion made it 10-0. However, Lisburn were settling into the pace of the game and after missing out on a golden opportunity to score due to a dropped pass, the Grosvenor line was finally breached when full back Scott Hughes collected an attempted clearance kick and charged through to offload to winger Adam Melville who made the break and after a further interpass with Hughes, Melville ghosted in for a fine try with prop Graham Currie on hand outside him if required. Scrumhalf Mark Crowe converted to make it 10-7.
The two kickers then swapped penalties to bring the score to 13-10 but Grosvenor were the next to score after Lisburn failed to claim a loose ball and they drove in under the posts to make it 20-10. With five minutes to go to the interval, and the game being played at breakneck speed, Lisburn got back into contention when they deservedly scored. An excellent drive by the backs out wide saw the move break down with some fierce Grosvenor tackling but the ball came backwards and centre Richard Kindred, how good to see him back after injury, was on hand to gain possession and score in the corner. While the difficult conversion failed, Lisburn had narrowed the gap to 20-15.
Lisburn gathered themselves during the interval with some smart words from Captain, Phil Jefferson and Coaches Irwin and Crowe and they came out determined for the second half. They laid siege to the home line and were rarely out of the Grosvenor half of the field for most of the second period. On eight minutes they scored a superb try when second row Alan Hughes gathered a loose clearance kick and charged twenty metres up to the Grosvenor line where fast hands by the half backs Crowe, Finlay and inside centre Gibb saw Kindred unleashed and he offloaded to winger Adam Melville who dashed in for his second try. While the difficult conversion failed, Lisburn were on terms at twenty points each and well worthy of it. Five minutes later the continuing Lisburn pressure saw Grosvenor concede a penalty and the Crowe conversion saw the visitors in front 20-23 for the first time in the game.
Lisburn were now playing a great brand of rugby with David Curry and Alan Hughes winning all their own ball in the lineout and the pack were solid in the scrums where props Currie and Dickson were supporting their Captain and hooker Phil Jefferson in a tight set piece- but the back row of Mark Hill and flankers Stuart Evans and Chris Cummings were also playing a vital role in controlling the dangerous Grosvenor back row and backline. Chris Cummings was making his seasonal debut at this level and was a revelation in following the ball wherever it went and carrying expertly in the loose as well.
With ten minutes to go Grosvenor broke out into the Lisburn half of the field for what was a rare visit and benefited from what was a very disputed penalty to again draw level at 23-23 but with just five minutes to go, and Lisburn back in the home 22, Crowe again converted a simple penalty chance to take the lead which they held for the final exchanges and ran out 23-26 winners. This was an excellent game of rugby played in surprisingly good conditions, bearing in mind the snowbound conditions which featured on many other grounds, and on the balance of play in the second half Lisburn were deserving winners. Next week they will try and maintain the momentum when they travel to Enniskillen for another tough encounter.
Lisburn 18 – Carrick 16
In an exciting Qualifying League encounter at Blaris last Saturday, a rejuvenated Lisburn team reversed the outcome of the away fixture last September by overcoming Carrick at Blaris. This was a must win game for both teams as they, along with Larne and Randalstown, were sitting uncomfortably in the bottom four positions of Qualifying Two. At least this win gives them some breathing space and encouragement prior to their next test against Grosvenor who sit in mid table.
The game got off to a frenetic start with Lisburn driving into Carrick territory and there was only three minutes on the clock before Mark Crowe, playing at scrumhalf, notched up the first points with a well taken penalty. Graham Lee had returned out of semi-retirement to replace the unavailable David Curry and his experience brought a lot of grunt to the close exchanges early on. However it was Carrick who scored next with a good opportunist try from scrumhalf Topping after he sold an outrageous dummy before going in under the posts. The conversion made it 3-7 to the visitors.
The Lisburn pack had plenty of experience in the front row in Dickson, Jefferson and Currie, the latter back after a month’s break because of an ankle injury, and the scrums were solid right through the game. Alan Hughes athleticism in the lineout and around the park also gave Lisburn much needed possession and the pack generally worked hard to provide this. A penalty apiece was then swapped before, on the dot of half time, Lisburn produced a little bit of magic. Attacking on the Carrick line possession was gained with some good rucking and mauling and a long pass to the wing saw winger David Scott steam in at the corner for an excellent try. While the conversion failed, it put Lisburn in at the interval with an all important 11-10 lead.
This was the morale booster they needed and within seven minutes of the restart, and following sustained pressure, scrumhalf Crowe put left winger Adam Melville in under the posts for a trademark try with a beautifully executed inside pass. Crowe converted to make it 18-10. Carrick then came right back into the game with a simple penalty to narrow the gap to five points and the Lisburn support were once again living on their nerves. At this point the game had broken up as the two teams tried all they could to get another breakthrough and heightened tension led to a yellow card on either side in separate incidents. Carrick closed the margin still further with another penalty making it 18-16 but thankfully stout defence all around the park, especially from their back row of Stuart Evans, David Gilkinson and Mark Hill kept the Lisburn line intact until the final whistle.
Next Saturday the team travel to Grosvenor to see if they can repeat their home win before Christmas. It is a very important fixture for Lisburn as they seek to escape the relegation trapdoor. The 2nd XV try to get back to winning ways after their defeat to Carrick 2s when they travel to play Clogher Valley 2s. The 3rd XV have a free date.
Lisburn 16 – UUC 20
Lisburn exited the Towns Cup at Blaris last Saturday after losing a game that they should probably have won, bearing in mind the amount of possession that they had from their stronger pack. However, despite pressing strongly in the early exchanges, it was the students who first went into the lead after 15 minutes following some poor tackling and defensive cover by the home backs. The try under the posts gave UUC a 0-7 lead. Lisburn reduced the deficit to 3-7 shortly afterwards with a David Scott penalty but once again they shot themselves in the foot with a dropped ball and UUC were in for another converted try bringing the score to 3-14. Lisburn’s old failings in defence, which it was thought were almost solved in the run of games before Christmas, had now surfaced again. The Lisburn pack were winning good ball in the scrums and rucks but lineouts were still not secure on their own ball. The front row of Jefferson, Press and Dickson were giving the smaller student’s front row a torrid time in the set pieces and this was the main supply line of go forward possession which allowed Lisburn their scoring opportunities. Just before half time Scott converted another penalty to make it 6-14 and left Lisburn with hope for another come back.
After the interval the homesters came out with a new found confidence and started to make inroads into UUC territory. A great move by the backs eventually brought them some benefit after the ball was moved out to the wing and then back in again with outhalf Adam Hanley being credited with the touchdown. Scott again converted to bring the score to 13-14 and Lisburn were right back in the game. Another Scott penalty put Lisburn into the lead at 16-14 and the home support felt that this now was the opportunity to finish off the game as their dominant pack were giving the students a hard time up front. However, it was not to be as UUC continued to play fluent rugby and with Lisburn’s indicipline proving fatal once again, two further penalties sent the students home as winners.
Lisburn, it is hoped, will have learned something from this game – getting scrum engagement right and winning your own lineout ball are still two lessons to be learned correctly and Lisburn were occasionally profligate in these areas, despite being more dominant against the lighter student pack. Indicipline leading to yellow cards has also to be watched. In the backline, better defensive alignment is a strong requirement. Next Saturday the 1st and 2nd XVs host Carrick in the league and following Carrick’s good win over Larne recently, Lisburn will require all guns blazing to get a win and move out of the relegation zone.
Lisburn 15 – Larne 23
At Blaris last Saturday, a fired up Lisburn team went down narrowly to Larne, another team who were fighting for their lives in a relegation battle at the bottom of the Division Two table. As a result of this reversal, Lisburn now share the bottom spot with Larne.
Lisburn were without the influential Mark Hill but were pleased to have Stuart Barron back in Lisburn colours as well as the recently unavailable David Curry. These two added steel to the Lisburn effort. Mark Crowe kicked Lisburn into the lead after ten minutes but it was not long lived as the Larne outhalf Milliken returned the compliment five minutes later to even the score. On the twenty minute mark, Larne went into the lead with a well taken try on the right wing after the Lisburn defence was caught wanting and a huge overlap let their winger in at the corner. The Larne team were a much changed outfit from the one which Lisburn beat early in the season at Larne and their strong pack and free running backs were proving quite a handful for the Lisburn defence. Ten minutes from the interval the visitors struck again with another simple penalty to open an eight point gap and this was stretched further when just before the whistle, their flanker broke through the first line of defence and then danced his way up-field , unhindered, to the Lisburn line for another Larne score which brought the half time position to 3-16.
A serious discussion took place during the interval and Lisburn came out with a different attitude for the second half. The pack started to dominate the scrums and the lineouts started to improve. They brought the ball to the Larne line on a number of occasions and on one of these, following numerous indiscretions by the visitor’s front row in a series of five metre scrums, Lisburn were awarded a penalty try underneath the posts. Crowe converted to narrow the gap to 10-16.
Unfortunately, this situation did not last long as Larne regrouped and after being awarded a penalty for interfering with play, the Larne scrumhalf Garrett, a very influential player for them, took a tap and go and having broken upfield, was able to offload to his support players who scored under the posts. The conversion made it 10-23 and Lisburn, despite playing some excellent rugby, especially up front, were left again with a mountain to climb. The one area where Lisburn are now falling down is in their first up tackling around the fringe defences and numerous tries have been given away over the last month on the simple basic skill of putting the ball carrier down before the line is broken.
With thirty minutes still to go, Lisburn had everything to play for and they went about it with all guns blazing. The pack were still winning plenty of ball up front and a fierce forward drive resulted in Stuart Evans going in under the Larne defensive wall. 15-23. Lisburn were now totally dominant in the set scrums but yet could just not get the break through which their efforts warranted. Ten minutes from time even this advantage was nullified when one of the Larne props went off injured and the final part of the game went to uncontested scrums and despite all their efforts to get on terms, Lisburn found themselves with the same eight point deficit at the final whistle.
Lisburn 14 – Enniskillen 14
With Lisburn trying to recover from a series of convincing defeats in which their away form exposed some unpleasant defensive frailties, and with Enniskillen coming off a local derby defeat to Clogher Valley in the semi final of the Junior Cup, the home team were looking for an improved performance in this important Qualifying League fixture. With Adam Hanley in the centre and Ally Finlay and Crowe at half back, the backline looked a more potent force and they defended well throughout the game. Up front, Adrian Daley reverted to his normal flanker position and he, along with his back row colleagues, Evans and Hill, bottled up the potent Enniskillen fringe offensives.
Lisburn got off to a good start and laid siege inside the ‘Skins 22 but unfortunately the visitors broke out on ten minutes and their right wing ran up the field to draw in two Lisburn defenders and then placed a perfectly timed inside pass to his supporting outhalf who went in under the posts. The conversion made it 0-7. Within minutes of the restart, Enniskillen again came up the left hand side of the pitch through their backs but a loose pass was cleverly intercepted by Lisburn right wing Owen Hilary who ran half the pitch to score near the posts and the Crowe conversion equalised the score at seven points each.
For the rest of the period play swung from end to end and Enniskillen tried everything they knew to break down the Lisburn defence but after leaking so many tries in recent games, their morale grew with every tackle and at half time the score remained the same, despite missing out on another Crowe penalty.
The second half was a revelation by the Lisburn pack. Andy Barron and Alan Hughes in the second row played a blinder and the whole eight took the game to Enniskillen who were rocked back on their heels. Unfortunately, flanker Daley had to leave the field after just ten minutes with a dislocated shoulder and this required a visit to hospital for correction. Nevertheless the Lisburn backs shortly afterwards took the ball up to the Enniskillen line where left wing Adam Melville got possession and he was then driven over the line by his supporting pack for a great score. Crowe converted the try and Lisburn had a 14-7 lead. At the end of the third quarter Crowe unfortunately missed a further penalty but Lisburn had their tails up and were playing with gusto. Alas, during the final few minutes of the game and feeling the strain of playing with just fourteen players, Lisburn failed to close out the match and in injury time Enniskillen got possession five metres out and their flanker drove through a spread-eagled defence which had prop Graham Curry on the floor with a bad ankle injury. They converted the score to bring up a 14-14 draw, a result which ultimately Lisburn were disappointed with, but on reflection marks a big improvement in their game.
Next Saturday marks a very important date in the Club’s calendar when they have their usual Christmas Lunch and also host Larne in the league. Both Clubs will be targeting this game for a win in order to escape the lower reaches of the league table. The 2nd XV will travel to Malone 3s in the first round of the Crawford Cup.
Omagh 26 – Lisburn 0
At Omagh last Saturday, Lisburn once again crashed in the Qualifying League and went down by four tries and three conversions to nil, albeit twelve of these points coming in the last few minutes of the match when Lisburn were down to 14 men. Playing on a gluey pitch still recovering from the overnight frost, they started well and while playing down the hill in the first half, enjoyed a territorial advantage as they chased an opening score. However, they could not get that vital breakthrough running hard at the home line and it was Omagh who put the first points on the board when a Lisburn kick ahead was run back by the Omagh full back when the Lisburn chasers were not in evidence. His momentum took him through the visitor’s defence and a score under the posts resulted in a 7-0 deficit, much against the run of play up to that point.
Omagh played their usual strong mauling game to suit the conditions perfectly and Lisburn progressively had great difficulty in getting the ball down into the home 22 and half time arrived with the score still at 7-0. The second half was going to be a hard task for Lisburn playing up the slope and that is exactly how it transpired, though there were occasions when they came near to scoring. After ten minutes of the half the big Omagh pack rumbled deep into Lisburn territory to score again and the conversion made it 14-0. Within minutes, Lisburn nearly equalised after scrumhalf Bobby Hall made an excellent break upfield and with just the fullback to beat under the home posts, looked around for support. Unfortunately, it arrived too late and the opportunity was lost in the following melee. Lisburn did manage to maintain a semblance of attacking fervour and spent some time in the Omagh half during the second period but most of their time was spent on defence. Twenty minutes from time they lost hooker Tommy Thompson with an injured shoulder and this eventually told as Omagh ran in two tries in the final five minutes to give themselves an added bonus point. This win for Omagh allows them to leapfrog Lisburn in the League table and leaves Lisburn second from the bottom and fighting for survival. Next Saturday they travel to Ballyclare to take on the League leaders and a hard fought game is in prospect.
Lisburn 10 – Limavady 35
At Blaris last Saturday an understrength and injury ravaged squad went under to a fired up Limavady by 10 points to 35. Missing their captain and second row of the previous week, David Curry, centre David Scott and wingers Adam Melville and Owen Hilary and with scrumhalf Paul Melville still fighting his way back to match fitness following an early season injury, the Lisburn team were shorn of a lot of experience when taking on a team just below them in the league and who most definitely wanted to win more than Lisburn.
The first half got off to a fairly even start by both teams with Limavady missing an early opportunity to go in front when fluffing a kickable penalty on five minutes. Scott Hughes then put Lisburn into the lead with a penalty in front of the posts on the ten minute mark but this was cancelled out half way through the half with an improved kick by the Limavady outhalf and this was repeated after thirty minutes play to put the visitors into a 3-6 lead, an advantage which they held until half time.
The tale of this half was one of each set of backs probing the other and despite the missing players, the Lisburn defence out wide stood steady. However, it has to be said that the Lisburn pack were coming under pressure and they badly missed the bit of iron which David Curry brought to the table. Sadly, Curry will be missing for a number of months now due to work commitments and exams. The Lisburn line out was also misfunctioning on occasion where overthrows were a cause of concern and they lost Lisburn a lot of possession.
The second half was a bit of a disaster for the home team. First of all prop Mark Gilkinson went off injured, resulting in un-contested scrums, and then centre Richard Kindred injured a leg and had to move to the wing rather than the team being reduced further. These injuries resulted in Limavady getting an increase in possession and their backs made good use of it with the extra man being used to good effect. Within five minutes of the restart the visitors got a try after breaking a tackle 5 metres from the Lisburn line and the conversion put them into a 3-13 lead. Ten minutes later, once again due to loose tackling, Limavady went in under the posts after their fullback had got possession on the ten metre line and he ran at speed to cut a swathe directly through the Lisburn defence to score. 3-20.
Lisburn tried desperately to stem the flow of possession going to the visitors pack but were fighting a losing battle against the greater numbers. On the half hour, their backs created an overlap and ran in an unconverted try to make it 3-25. Limavady at this stage were beginning to think of a fourth try and a bonus point and surprisingly went for a drop goal with just 5 minutes remaining. The kick was successful bringing the score to 3-28 and Lisburn upped the ante to try and prevent the bonus point. They brought the ball down to the Limavady line where second row Mark Hill was unleashed to go over under the posts. 10-28.
With the match in injury time, Lisburn thought that they had saved the bonus point but straight from the restart, Limavady brought the ball upfield in a sweeping movement and then sliced through the weak Lisburn defence to score and seal five valuable league points. The conversion made it 10-35 to put the hat on a forgettable display for the home team. While injuries dictated the result of this game, it was disappointing to note some of the defensive frailties and the first up tackling will have to be improved before they take on Bangor in their next league game in a fortnight’s time. While the result of this game was disappointing, the players know that they have it in them to play much better and a good two weeks on the training park can make a big difference. They can still look forward to the next series of games in confidence.
Lisburn 25 – Ballyclare 45
Following their loss to Carrick the previous week, Lisburn were looking to bounce back against League front runners Ballyclare at Blaris last week and for much of the game it looked as if they could gain the win which they were quite capable of. However, circumstances dictated otherwise. With Adam Hanley back at outhalf following injury, and Ally Finlay at scrumhalf for the first time this season, they got off to a great start with a simple David Scott penalty in front of the posts but over the next ten minutes they missed out on two slightly more difficult but kickable efforts which would have given them a buffer to rely on later in the game. On the fifteen minute mark a missed tackle allowed the big Clare number eight Rainey to charge unheeded to the Lisburn line and although stopped just short, the support were able to regain possession and create an overlap to score. The conversion made it 3-7 to the visitors. Within minutes Lisburn were back in the lead after Mark Hill got on the end of a great movement involving forwards and backs and the big No 8 used his power to break the line and score. 8-7 to Lisburn.
Shortly into the start of the second quarter more loose tackling by Lisburn allowed the Ballyclare winger Baird to score and this was converted. However, straight from the kick off Lisburn centre David Scott increased his goal kicking tally with another penalty and just on half time his co-centre Richard Kindred broke the line to score a great try near the posts and Scott again converted to bring up a well deserved scoreline of 18-14 in Lisburn’s favour.
This was a frenetic game of much movement and flowing back play from both sides and while the Lisburn pack were playing extremely well in the set pieces and in the loose, the fragile first up tackling around the park was providing Ballyclare with plenty of opportunities to score. Fifteen minutes into the half, and with centre Scott off with a shoulder injury, and Ballyclare gaining another penalty, Lisburn were camped on the visitor’s line and did everything but score when Ballyclare broke out and brought play to the other end of the field where the full back Byres squirmed over in the corner. This was a bitter blow and sadly one of the Ballyclare players was badly injured in the movement and the game had to be postponed for half an hour while an ambulance was called. After the re-start the conversion was kicked from the touchline and Ballyclare were suddenly in the ascendancy by 24 points to 18.
Straight from the kick off Ballyclare scored again when their No 8 Rainey ran unhindered through the home cover and his support players took the final pass to score under the post. Lisburn went back on the attack and were pressing on the ‘Clare line when a loose pass was intercepted and the receiver ran the length of the pitch to score. Lisburn were now down by 38-18 and with just ten minutes remaining they tried to chase the game. Once again Mark Hill broke through after pressure on the Ballyclare defence and the conversion narrowed the gap to 25-38 but just as the final whistle was approaching, Ballyclare scored again after their scrumhalf Morrow weaved through a disorganised home defence and the seven points brought up a final score of 25-45 to the visitors.
This was an entertaining running game and the final score line does little justice to the closeness of the battle overall but Lisburn will have to ask themselves how they managed to concede six tries, even though half of them came in the final quarter following a lengthy and disruptive break in play. If they are to learn anything from this game it will have to be about how they go about tightening up their defensive system and ensuring their first time tackling – far too many tackles were missed.
Carrick 31 – Lisburn 20
With Carrick still looking for a home win this season and Lisburn unbeaten away from home the scene was set for an intriguing encounter. In excellent playing conditions, Lisburn kicked off but the ball failed to travel the required 10 metres and Carrick were awarded a scrum on half way. Determined to establish early superiority, Lisburn forced the Carrick scrum round 90 degrees for the turnover and from this scrum the ball was fed to Adam Melville on the wing to make good ground up to the 22 before passing to Richard Kindred who was stopped just short of the try line. Carrick managed to clear but at the ensuing ruck, Lisburn were awarded a penalty which they decided to kick for touch only to be penalised at the lineout. This enabled Carrick to bring play up to the Lisburn 22. Lisburn cleared to half way but Carrick attacked again and after a Lisburn clearance kick was charged down Carrick won a penalty which their full back converted to put them 3-0 ahead against the run of play. Up to this point the Lisburn pack had forced several turnovers by forcing the scrum through 90 degrees. However, the referee now decided that Lisburn were deliberately wheeling the scrum and awarded Carrick a penalty inside the Lisburn half. They kicked to touch but Lisburn cleared once again and won a scrum just outside their 22. Unfortunately they lost this scrum against the head, Carrick attacked, set the ruck and recycled for their winger to score a try. The conversion was successful and Carrick had extended their lead to 10—0. Lisburn went on the attack again and were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch on the Carrick 5 metre line. An overthrow at the lineout enabled Carrick to gather and bring play up to half way and when Lisburn were again penalised, Carrick found touch on the Lisburn 22. They won the ensuing lineout and from the maul which followed their scrum half broke clear to score a try. This was duly converted and Lisburn found themselves 17-0 down after 30 minutes play. Lisburn fought back and a penalty by David Scott was just wide before Adam Melville broke clear from his own 22 and ran the length of the pitch to touch down in the corner after kicking past the full back. The conversion was missed but Lisburn were now on the scoreboard at 17-5. Minutes later, another great run by winger Melville, carried on by Owen Hilary resulted in the Carrick no. 7 receiving a yellow card for deliberately killing the ball to disrupt the Lisburn momentum. This time Scott made no mistake with the penalty and at half time Lisburn had worked their way back into the game at 17 points to 8 in favour of Carrick but with a man advantage to start the second half. Unfortunately this was short lived when Lisburn were also reduced to fourteen men with a yellow card two minutes after the restart. The resultant Carrick penalty struck the post and Lisburn were able to clear the danger. Carrick were soon back on the attack but Lisburn were determined to run the ball from deep and a strong break from Scott enabled him to feed Scott Hughes on half way. He produced a great finish to beat two defenders and score a brilliant try. The conversion was missed but Lisburn had narrowed the gap to 17-13. Once again Carrick took the game to Lisburn and a poor clearance kick put Lisburn under sustained pressure. They managed to withstand the onslaught and Kindred broke clear from inside his 22 only to be caught by the chasing Carrick defence when it seemed he would score. As one of the chasing Carrick players had played the ball in an offside position, Lisburn were awarded a penalty. They kicked to touch, won the lineout and fed the ball to David Scott who produced a rampaging run before offloading to Mark Hill to crash over for the try. The conversion was successful and Lisburn were ahead for the first time at 20-17. Carrick fought back and following a scrum near half way they fed their winger on the blind side. He managed to evade several tackles before passing to his full back to score the try. This was converted and Carrick were back in front again at 24-20. Lisburn did not give up and another good run from Hughes almost led to a try when unfortunately the final pass was forward. This was to be their final flourish and as they again attempted to break from inside their 22 a Carrick forward intercepted to score under the posts. This was converted to leave the final score at 31-20 in favour of Carrick. This was a game Lisburn could and should have won and it will now be up to the coaches to pick up the pieces and prepare for next Saturday’s game at home against high-flying Ballyclare. Match report from Bill Graham
Larne 8-Lisburn 9
Lisburn kicked off with a strong breeze behind them and following some good handling M.Hill was halted just short of the line when it looked odds on he would open the scoring. Larne managed to clear their lines and gradually worked their way upfield into the Lisburn half. Lisburn managed to avert the danger when they were awarded a penalty which Crothers kicked to touch. Good work from the Lisburn pack provided ball for Crowe to chip through up to the Larne 5m line and Hughes was almost through. However, Larne were awarded a penalty which allowed them to clear the danger. Lisburn were soon on the attack again and moved the ball through the backs to give winger Harkness a clear run to the line. Unfortunately the final pass was adjudged to be forward . Further pressure from Lisburn yielded a penalty on 21 mins. when Larne were caught offside. Crowe converted to give Lisburn the lead at 3-0. Larne began to press forward again but Lisburn counter attacked from their own 22 metre line and a clever chip through from Hughes forced the Larne full back to gather into touch. Lisburn were unable to capitalise from the ensuing lineout and after 30 mins. despite having most of the play and several promising breaks the score remained at 3-0 for Lisburn. The final 10 mins. of the half saw play alternate between both sides. Larne were awarded a penalty but with the stiff breeze decided to kick for touch and the ensuing lineout. Once again Lisburn cleared but Larne were awarded another penalty in the final minute of the half when Lisburn were caught offside. This time they decided to kick for goal but the kick was just wide leaving Lisburn to face the breeze in the second half with a slender 3-0 advantage. Straight from the restart Larne kicked deep into Lisburn territory and for the next 10 mins. Lisburn were forced on the defensive. Larne were awarded a series of penalties but decided to kick for touch even with the wind behind them and only stout Lisburn defence kept them at bay. On 50 mins. a good break by Owen Hilary carried on by winger Cummins saw Larne penalised at the ensuing ruck. Crothers was able to convert against the breeze to give Lisburn a 6-0 advantage. Larne again pressed forward looking for the breakthrough and were rewarded with a penalty when their winger was adjudged to have been impeded as he chased a kick through. From this incident Lisburn were reduced to 14 men when centre Gibb received a yellow card. The penalty was converted to bring the score to 6-3. This appeared to sting Lisburn into action and following several good runs with centre David Scott very much to the fore Lisburn won a penalty just outside the Larne 22. This time the kick by Crothers sailed just wide. Larne responded from the restart to bring play deep into Lisburn territory and when the ball was spread wide the extra man advantage enabled them to score a try although Lisburn felt that their defence had been obstructed. The conversion was missed but Larne were ahead for the first time at 8-6. To their credit, Lisburn stuck to their task and following a kick through by Crowe which Lisburn were able to recycle a Larne player was caught offside just outside their 22. This time Crowe made no mistake with the kick to put Lisburn back in front at 9-8. Larne pressed hard in the final minutes and were awarded a penalty when Lisburn infringed at a scrum. Much to the relief of Lisburn the kick was missed and Lisburn eventually ran out 9-8 winners. Thanks to Bill Graham for the match report.
Lisburn 23 – Randalstown 6
Following their earlier loss to Bangor in the Qualifying League, and a well below par performance against Dromore in the Junior Cup, Lisburn at last got their season back on track with a well deserved if hard fought match against a resurgent Randalstown at Blaris last Saturday. The game commenced with a minutes’ silence in memory of Nevin Spence and the Spence family, with the Under 19s of Lisburn and Ballyclare following suit on the adjoining pitch.
Watched by Ulster player Paddy McAllister, currently in injury rehab, Lisburn commenced the game determined to make up for their earlier performances and with Randalstown going well following their two wins over Carrick and Larne, a good game was in prospect. However it was Randalstown who struck first blood with a simple penalty to take a three point lead, a lead which was cancelled out five minutes later with a Crowe effort for Lisburn. Mark was standing in for the three unavailable scrum halves in the number 9 shirt and indeed he had a distinguished display there.
Lisburn set pieces were holding their own up front, despite an occasional wayward lineout, but the back row of Gilkinson, Evans and Hill were playing exceptionally well in defence and many of the Randalstown movements were stemmed at source. There was plenty of go forward ball supplied to the backline and outhalf Adam Hanley put his centres Gibb and Scott into space regularly. From one such move winger Adam Melville cut a great line to provide the first try and while the difficult conversion failed, Crowe was on hand to kick another penalty on 25 minutes to give Lisburn a deserved 11-3 lead, a lead which they preserved until half time.
After the interval, Randalstown came back strongly and were rewarded with another penalty to narrow the gap to 11-6 but with Lisburn starting to dominate the loose exchanges, especially through the hard yards won by David Curry, Tommy Thompson and Phil Jefferson, the Lisburn backs profited immensely and at the end of the third quarter a searing break by full back Scott Hughes saw him round the last line of the Randalstown defence to score a great try. Another good backline move ten minutes later saw Stuart Evans on the end of a passing movement to the left wing and the big flanker drove through the defence to score near the posts. The Crowe conversion brought up what was the final 23-6 scoreline, despite every effort to get that fourth try and a bonus point.
This was a good win for what was by and large a young Lisburn team and eighteen year olds Jack Connan. Adam Hanley, Peter Ireland and David Scott all excelled.
Lisburn 10 – Bangor 39
After a strong pre-season preparation stretching back to May last, and with several new, quality recruits in their ranks, Lisburn went into their first competitive fixture of the season against Bangor. Rumour had it that Bangor had recruited well in the close season and so it turned out with some excellent showings both up front and in a strong running back line.
Within three minutes of the start Lisburn had their first opportunity of points on the board but a penalty almost in front of the posts went wide and after a further seven minutes of probing each other’s defences it was Bangor who opened the scoring when their scrumhalf broke wide from a five metre scrum. 5-0 to the visitors.
Lisburn came back immediately and with a plentiful supply of ball from their hard working pack, especially Hill, Jones, Evans and Prime they threw everything at the Bangor defence. However, on the 25 minute mark, one of the Lisburn centres was caught offside from a set piece and Bangor kicked the penalty to open an eight point gap. On what was a very warm day for playing rugby, Lisburn threw the ball about in the perfect running conditions and were rewarded when centre David Scott got himself on the end of a passing movement with a well-timed overlap and he galloped into the corner for a try. Unfortunately, Scott Hughes was unable to add the conversion from the long distance kick.
The score of 5-8 at that stage indicated that it was still anybody’s game but just on the stroke of halftime, Bangor made a strong forward drive to the Lisburn line and their flanker was on hand to pick up the loose ball and score. The conversion brought up a 5-15 interval score which slightly flattered the visitors at this point of the game.
Within minutes of the re-start Bangor put the nail in Lisburn’s coffin by scoring again through their very fast backline, exposing some frailties in the home defence. This was followed by a penalty and then a further try when once again the home defence was found wanting. Bangor then started to run everything and a further converted try was run in before the end of the third quarter.
To their credit, Lisburn at this stage could have capitulated but they started a strong comeback in the fourth quarter and did manage to put their counterparts under some pressure. The pack started to dictate affairs a bit better than they had been doing in the middle part of the game and a number of driving runs by Hill and Jones in particular, almost got them tries. They were eventually rewarded for their persistence when Mark Hill went over to make the final score 10-39.
Lisburn will dwell on this scoreline but bearing in mind that if was their first game together as a team, as against Bangor’s third game in a row, they should not be too despondent and there were passages of excellent play to show what could be done. The gelling of the team must start on the training pitch and next Saturday they have an opportunity to put things back together again in a local derby at Dromore who they take on in the Junior Cup. This will be excellent preparation for their following league game against league newcomers, Randalstown, who they host at Blaris on Saturday 22nd Sept. Next Saturday, the 2nd XV take on Dungannon 3s, away, while the 3rd XV host Ballymena 4s in the junior league.