3rd XV are disappointed with draw at Lisburn 2nd XV

Back to league action for the 3rd XV on Saturday, as they travelled the short distance along the M1 seeking revenge against Lisburn 2nd XV in the return fixture of the match played and lost at the beginning of the season at Shawsbridge.

The playing conditions on Saturday were difficult for both teams, with the sun low in the sky, and the pitch close to being unplayable due to the recent freezing conditions. The match did however go ahead with Instonians kicking off with the sun behind.

The visitors made a bright start and were soon on the score sheet. Following some good work at the lineout, Robbie Kirk broke through Lisburn’s midfield defence to set up Marty Hamill who was held up just short of the line. With the ball quickly recycled, Matthew Austin continued the move, setting up another ruck close to the Lisburn try line. Quick ball was provided and Robbie Kirk once again made ground, feeding James Poland, who crashed over for the first try of the game. With the conversion successful, Instonians took an early 0-7 lead.

From the restart Instonians returned with a long kick deep into the Lisburn half in order to regain territorial advantage. With Lisburn retreating, the Instonians defence pinned the home team into their twenty two meter area. Some great work at the breakdown saw Rab Brown rip the ball from the Lisburn player, and with the Lisburn defence scrambling the visitors moved the ball quickly through several pairs of hands to Ashley Black, who raced in to score Instonians second try of the match. With the conversion slotted, the score line moved to 0-14.

If Instonians thought with ten minutes gone this was going to be an easy afternoon they were to be mistaken. Lisburn regrouped and began to enjoy a period of possession. From a line out on the Instonians twenty two meter line, the home team attacked in midfield. The Instonians defence held firm however a strong tackle was adjudged by the referee to be high, and as a result a penalty try was awarded to the home team. 7-14

The penalty try appeared to lift Lisburn as they once again attacked Instonians, who were now struggling to compete, allowing the home team to get beyond the gain line and forcing the defence to retreat. From a quick ruck ball, the home team broke through in midfield to score their second try of the match. An unsuccessful conversion attempt left the score 12-14.

Injuries to James Poland and Marty Hamill led to a reshuffle in the backs and the forwards, with Reuben Clarke and Sam Fryers replacing James and Marty respectively.

Lisburn were definitely in the ascendency now, pushing Instonians back as they went in search of their third score, as the game moved towards half time. Instonians began to show good spirit as they repelled the Lisburn attacks close to their line, eventually forcing the home team to concede penalties which allowed Instonians to clear their lines and move play back towards the Lisburn half.

On the stroke of half time the visitors struck again. From a scrum on the halfway line Joe Fryers now playing in the centre made a clean break in midfield taking the ball deep into the Lisburn half. Showing great awareness Joe fed his younger brother Sam who was running a clever support line, with a simple two on one pass sending Sam over for a well worked and well deserved third try. Once again the conversion was successful as the score at half time moved to 12-21 to Instonians.

Half Time 12-21

The second half began well for Instonians as they increased the intensity, forcing Lisburn onto the back foot and into conceding several penalties. As has been the case in recent matches Instonians chose to keep the ball in hand and the pace high rather than slow the game down. This tactic once again worked in their favour, as following a sustained period of possession and pressure, Dennis Shuttleworth took a popped pass and forced his way over for the visitor’s fourth try of the match, securing a four try bonus point. An unsuccessful conversion left Instonians leading 12-26 with thirty minutes to go.

With a comfortable lead, and moving towards the final quarter of the match, Instonians appeared to take their foot of the gas handing the initiative back to the home team. Sensing this, Lisburn seized their opportunity turning some good pressure into a soft unconverted score. 17-26

Instonians once again increased the pace and intensity of the game, however, poor ball retention meant that the opportunities which were created led to turnover ball or the concession of penalties.

This frustrating pattern continued until Dennis Shuttleworth once again took on the Lisburn defence close to the line, crashing over for his second try of the match and the visitor’s fifth. An unsuccessful conversion left the score 17-31 in favour of Instonians with ten minutes remaining.

These final five of six minutes will live long in the memory as a 17-31 lead, became a 31-31 final score, as Lisburn scored two late converted trys.

Full time 31-31

How quickly things can change in a game of rugby. From cruising towards a five point bonus point victory, to finishing with a three point draw, this result felt more like a loss for the lads on Saturday afternoon.

A frustrating finish to the match which seemed to be ‘in the bag’, however; when the dust has settled, and the result is put into perspective, gaining another valuable three league points and continuing 2019 undefeated having played four consecutive matches is a major achievement for this squad, as they continue to punch above their weight in a league made up from mainly 2nd XV’s.

The squad cannot be faulted in terms of their commitment throughout the match and there are numerous positives to be taken from this performance, however; the result and the manner in which the result came about cannot be ignored, and lessons should be learnt and taken forward into future games in terms of accuracy, game management, and the ability to close a game out.

Credit must go to Lisburn however, as they dug in and kept fighting to the end to come away with three points which will most likely seem like a victory to them given the score line with five minutes to go.

The referee deserves credit following Saturday’s match. Conscious of the firm weather related playing conditions, Saturday’s referee applied the required level of common sense to his decision making and game management, to help avoid any ground condition related injuries, while also allowing the game to flow, as the final score line would suggest.

Squad 1-18: Peadair Meenan (C), Jonny Harding, Dennis Shuttleworth, ;Ryan Hickland, Darryl Smith, Matt Austin, Rab Brown, James Poland, Finlay Bodel, Ashley Black, Lewis Bodel, Robbie Kirk, Marty Hamill, Johan Markarian, Joe Fryers, Matthew Bradley, Reuben Clarke, Sam Fryers.