Despite another heavy fall of rain the Neillsbrook pitches got a chance to dry off for an hour before kick off and although conditions were heavy underfoot it was a dry and virtually windless afternoon when the game started.
The visitors kicked off playing down the hill and pretty much kept ‘Town pinned deep in their own territory in the opening minutes. The home defence was performing well but eventually the experienced Clogher side opened the scoring with a penalty and then a converted try.
As the half drew to a close Clougher Valley kept it tight and used their big men to pummel the home defence. Hurrell was sent to the bin for infringing at the breakdown and the visitors took advantage of an extra man to barge over for an unconverted try and turn round 15-0 up.
Randalstown’s first clear scoring opportunity came in the second half when Niall McGlade broke down the left wing and supported by Donnelly they came within inches of the line.
Buoyed by this ‘Town kept up the momentum and Smith and Connolly combined in the centre of the park to pop a lovely soft pass to Hurrell coming at pace and he sped in under the posts. Connolly added the conversion.
At this stage the ‘Town support felt that the match was there for the taking. Dan McGlade and Liam Hurrell won a penalty on the 22 however and Connolly put the ball right back downfield to the visitors 22. Again the Valley defence was equal to all that ‘Town threw at them so all the efforts were in vain.
The clock was ticking down and ‘Town were still in the visitors 22 but then disaster struck and a Valley player was able to chase upfield where there was nobody home. He was caught yards from the line but unfortunately without ball in hand so a penalty try was awarded and the Qualifying 1 team ran out 22-7 winners.
The 15 Randalstown players who took the pitch gave 100 percent for 80 minutes and there was always potential for them to overturn this Clougher Valley side.
Conor Ferry stepped up again from the 2nds and was his usual committed self, with a few good carries in tight territory throughout. Pick of the pack went to Gary Hume and McWhirter at scrum half caught the eye consistently, enabling the ‘Town backline to cut loose at times and look threatening despite the heavy underfoot conditions.
This week the 1st XV are at home to Ballymoney 1st XV. Kick off as usual at 2.30 pm.
Randalstown II 31, Dromore II 5: On the other pitch the 2nd XV took on Dromore in the Crawford Cup and deservedly eased home.
With 18 minutes played good work from Conceicao and Jamie Orr in midfield set up Conor Murray who jinked his way through a number of would-be tackles to score a fine try. The versatile Murray, playing this week at 13, added the extras.
Phil Nelson returning after a couple of seasons absence due to injury and work commitments was prominent.
From a Dromore scrum on their own 10 metre line ‘Town had them under pressure and when the ball squirted out Scott Goodrich pounced to secure possession on the Dromore line.
The ball was recycled and Turner was held up before Orr sliced his way through to touch down in his final game for this season before his sojourn to Sweden.
The start of the second half was a bit of a slog in the Neillsbrook mud. Near the hour mark a neat grubber kick from Mark Strange put the ball behind the Dromore defensive line and veteran winger Peter McCann, also making his first appearance in 2 seasons, dribbled the ball over the line to touch down.
With a bit of breathing space now ‘Town sat back a bit and allowed Dromore a spell of possession and territory from which they scrambled over 10 minutes later for an unconverted try.
This spurred the home side into a late surge and a Murray break set up ‘Town with possession deep in the visitors 22.
The forwards went close a couple of times before Murray cut through, touched down and added the conversion.
With Dromore now looking for the final whistle Murray took advantage and danced his way through from half-way to add another fine individual try. His conversion was the final action of the game.
This Saturday the seconds also entertain Ballymoney at Neillsbrook.
The 3rds game in the Forster Plate away to Academy again fell victim to the weather and this will now also take place in Randalstown this Saturday.
The games will be preceded by the first pre-match lunch of the season.
Anyone wanting to attend should contact Adie Johnston as soon as possible – [email protected]