Randalstown 2's 40 - 19 Ballymena 3's
Randalstown 2nd XV recorded a very satisfying victory on Saturday over their local rivals Ballymena 3rd XV and their 40-19 victory at Neillsbrook saw them overtake their opponents and move into second place in Junior League 3.
Randalstown broke the deadlock early on when a wonderfully worked backline move saw centre Ryan O’Dea glide through the visiting defence before offloading to out half Matthew Turner who finished the move that he started to give the hosts a 5-0 lead. Turner had only returned from a holiday to Florida on Friday but showed no signs of jetlag here.
Ballymena hit back almost immediately with a converted try after a penalty took them deep inside the home side’s territory. This gave them a 5-7 lead but their advantage did not last long.
A back-and-forth first half saw ‘Town regain the lead and it was that man Turner again who decided he did not need his backline this time as he barged through the defence from ten metres out and full back Michael O’Connell added the extras to make it 12-7.
Again though, the home side could not hold on to their lead for long as they were standing under their own posts soon after. Some slack ruck defence allowed the Ballymena scrum half to dart through a gap to score under the posts for a converted score for a 12-14 lead.
The game then see-sawed back to Randalstown again before half time as the visitors’ defence succumbed under pressure from the home side. After more patient build up play, the hosts got within inches of the line and it was wing Ben Winter who popped up near the posts to force his way over for a converted score to leave ‘Town 19-14 up at the interval.
The second half began and immediately the home side had their neighbours under pressure as some fantastic build up play saw Randalstown go back and forth stretching the Ballymena defence. Prop Jack Hampton came close to the line and when the loose ball popped out O’Dea thought he had a try only for the referee to adjudge that the ball had been knocked on.
This did not deter the men in red and white and they got their bonus point try shortly after. They kept pummelling away at the visitors’ defence and they could only hold out for so long as flanker Mark Strange snuck over from close range. O’Connell converted and it was now 26-14.
For the first time in the match Randalstown had a bit of breathing room but, true to form, the visitors would just not lie down. Their centre made the most of an overlap as he dived over in the right hand corner for an unconverted score which, nonetheless, brought Ballymena within a score again at 26-19.
After this, though the hosts began to pull away as the away side began to tire. Sustained pressure on the Ballymena line bore fruit again as it was O’Connell who added a five pointer to his already-impressive kicking performance. He danced his way through a tightly packed defence as his deft footwork saw him go under the posts for an excellent individual score which he converted himself to make it 33-19.
This time there was no coming back for Ballymena as their stoic resistance and resilience was defeated. Their centre was shown a straight red card with around ten minutes to go for a tip tackle on O’Dea which led to a bit of pushing and shoving but otherwise it was a hard but fair local derby that was tightly contested for large parts.
There was still time for a sixth try for the hosts though and it was the hard-working Connor Ferry who got it. The second row went over for a score that any winger would be proud of as he timed his run perfectly and received a pass 25 metres out before rounding the Ballymena wing and proving too quick for their covering full back.
It was a popular try on the side-lines and it was no less than he or the team deserved as O’Connell’s conversion saw the scoreboard hit 40 just before the clock hit 80.
Despite the to-and-fro nature of the first period, Randalstown dominated the second half and they earned this excellent victory against a very good side. It was without doubt their best performance of the season so far and the whole club was delighted.
RANDALSTOWN 2ND XV: Michael O’Connell; Callum McGrenaghan; Ryan O’Dea; Paul Laverty; Ben Winter; Matthew Turner; Michael Smith; Shea McLaughlin; Miguel Conceicao; Jack Hampton; Sammy Hyndman (Captain); Connor Ferry; Mark Strange; Ian Hume; Phil McLean; Replacements: Pedro Conceicao; Stephen Carey; John Adair