3rd XV lose at Larne 2nd XV

Following a weekend off, Saturday saw the 3rd XV return to league action, with an away fixture against Larne 2nd XV.

Despite Larne Rugby Club’s exposed location, the weather on Saturday defied logic and was relatively benign, with no wind, and relatively bright skies. Despite the heavy rainfall the previous night, the conditions underfoot were almost perfect, with Instonians playing first half against the slight slope on the pitch.

The early exchanges were fairly evenly matched, with both teams testing the opposition’s defences close the ruck area. With memories of the poor defensive display against Donegal Town fresh in the memories, Instonians were determined to make amends with some aggressive hits coming from Rab Brown and Denis Shuttleworth in the opening minutes.

This strong defence forced Larne to revert to a kicking game in order to gain some territorial advantage. This tactic would test young Ruairi Forester playing at fullback. Ruairi was up for the challenge and on each occasion fielded the kick, and showed great enterprise by counter attacking from deep, making significant yardage and giving the team a target to attack.

The first score of the match came as a result of some good defensive work close to Larne’s 22 meter line. When Instonians turned the ball over, Dennis Shuttleworth was on hand to force himself in behind the Larne defence, with the opposition on the back foot, Instonians moved the ball quickly to James Poland who beat the covering defence to score out wide. With the conversion successful the score moved to 0-7.

This score should have been the catalyst for Instonians to build upon, however; Larne came storming back putting the visitors under pressure. Poor defence close a the ruck on the Instonians 22 meter line led to Larne’s first score of the match under the posts, leaving a simple conversion, 7-7.

This score seemed to lift the home side who were now enjoying extended periods of possession. The frustration was beginning to show as Instonians were guilty of conceding too many penalties which eventually led to a yellow card.

Despite being down to fourteen men, Instonians managed to build some momentum forcing the home team into conceding penalties of their own. With the lineout working well Instonians were able to kick to touch and recycle the ball, taking the play well into the home team’s territory. Once again quick tap penalties had Larne on the back foot and eventually with the ball being recycled and moved into the wide channels Wayne Kelly was able to breach the defence to score and convert Instonians second try of the match, leaving the half time score; 7-14.

Despite the lead and playing down the slope, Instonians struggled to maintain momentum, allowing Larne back into the game through a combination of mistakes and poor discipline. Time and again penalties were conceded, especially around the rucks. These penalties gave possession back to Larne who were content to retain and recycle possession, leading to the concession of further penalties.

Eventually the pressure told and Larne managed to score and convert their second try of the match, moving the score line to 14-14.

With the match moving into the final quarter, this game was there for whoever wanted it. It was Larne who once again took advantage of the Instonians poor discipline, who conceded a kickable penalty in front of the posts. With the kick successfully converted, the home team moved into the lead for the first time in the match, 17-14.

Instonians once again picked up the pace and playing some great rugby, managing to push for another score, however; mistakes and poor decisions at critical moments led to possession being conceded. Larne to their credit continued to frustrate Instonians and once more, forced the visitors to concede penalties, this allowed the home team to turn defence into attack, which resulted in a third try for the home team. With the conversion missed the score was now 22-14.

With time running out and the victory effectively beyond Instonians reach, a losing bonus point was there to be salvaged. Ironically this short period of the game was Instonians best spell and showed what they are capable of, and what might have been.

Keeping the ball in hand and recycling quick ruck ball, Instonians managed to take play deep into the home team’s 22, which led to Rab Brown (who was excellent throughout) crashing over for an unconverted try leaving the final score 22-19.

This was a frustrating afternoon and a frustrating result for Instonians, and one which the squad must learn from moving forward. On to many occasions discipline let us down with too many penalties being conceded. If it had not been for these penalties, the outcome could and should have resulted in a victory.

To our hosts Larne, thank you for Saturday’s match which was played in great spirit by both teams throughout, and all things considered, the result was probably a fair reflection of the match.

To the referee, this game must have been as frustrating to officiate as it was to watch; however Saturday’s ref was consistent throughout and where possible allowed a good game of rugby to be played.

Despite Saturday’s frustrations, there are positives to take forward and to work on, the defence was much improved, the basic skills and handling are improving and the set pieces, both in and out of touch were solid.

This year the 3’s are almost a completely different squad from last years, with a number of new players having come in, meaning it has taken a little time for the old and the new to blend together. This will hopefully continue as the season progresses, and the performances will hopefully reflect this progress.

Before Saturday’s match, in their first six outings this season, 47 players have represented the 3’s. On Saturday the 3’s were the only senior team representing the club, and only 15 players made themselves available, to those 15 players who travelled, and to those who once again played out of position, a big thank you, it’s much appreciated.

Team 1 to 16: Dennis Shuttleworth, Reuben Clarke, Richard Fannin, Matthew Bradley, Nathanial Johnston, Matthew Austin, Rab Brown, James Poland, Wayne Kelly, Ashley Black, Jordane Emmanuel, Donal Moloney, Josh Morrow, Jerome Hannon, Ruairi Forester, Kevin McKee.