A crucial second-half try from Jordan Burns helped Larne 1st XV defeat Holywood 13-0 in the last of their pool games of the Gordon West Cup on Saturday.
The result sees the Glynn men win their pool and secures a home draw in their quarter-final.
Skipper James McCluggage commented: “It was a fantastic team performance from 1-15. There was a real test of mettle at the end of the first half when we were under severe pressure and did not concede any points.
“The young players in the team really fronted up in defence - most notably hooker Ryan McAllister who put in a man of the match performance.”
There were two changes to the Larne team from the previous week with Johnny McKinty coming in to the pack and Ian McIlheron taking his place in the backline.
The Larne men hoped their recent good form would continue as they wanted to make amends of the heavy defeat they suffered to Holywood at the start of the season.
The game kicked off in glorious conditions and it was evident from the start that the match was going to be a physical contest. The thumping hits put in by both sides were colossal, with both teams wanting to stamp their authority early on. The visitors’ scrum dominated in the opening stages, putting the Larne forward pack under pressure.
The men in red stuck at it and continued to attack. Matthew Agnew was unlucky with an early penalty attempt which just fell short of the posts.
However, they pinned Holywood in their half for the first 20 minutes and the pressure continued to mount when Larne were awarded a penalty in front of the Holywood posts which Agnew slotted over.
This spurred Holywood into action and began to dominate play, camping themselves in the Larne half for 15 minutes. As they dominated at scrum time they had Larne under extreme pressure with a few scrums going backwards.
Larne were penalised numerous times and the referee warned of repeated infringements. Holywood never opted for the kickable penalty option and chose to scrum. As they continued to attack they were held up over the line twice with some heroic defending from Ian McIlheron and McKinty. Larne were able to clear their lines when it looked as if Holywood were going to be awarded a penalty try at scrum time; the visiting tight-head prop was penalised for boring in.
This was a real game-changer as Holywood had thrown everything at Larne and came away with no points. At half-time Larne led 3-0.
With the game delicately poised, the weather began to deteriorate and the conditions under foot softened. Larne’s game plan was to keep their opponents pinned in their 22 and the Larne scrum began to tighten and contested well.
In the line-out Crampsey was dominant, allowing quick ball for scrum half McIlheron. Outhalf McBride was beginning to look a real threat, breaking the Holywood line on numerous occasions however he was unfortunate not to have any support. But the young outhalf was next on the score sheet with a beautifully struck drop goal to put Larne 6-0 ahead.
The visitors showed glimpses of danger when they spread the ball wide but last-ditch defence by the home side’s backline saved the day.
Around the fringes of the rucks Jamison and McAllister were proving to be a real handful spoiling ball. McBride and Garrett used their kicking game effectively and pinned the Holywood back three deep in their half.
As Larne mounted an attack Holywood’s influential number eight was penalised and sent to the bin. Agnew had a shot at goal with the penalty attempt but he was off-target.
Failure to clear to touch saw the ball drop into Rhys Thomas’ hands and the rampaging winger set off into the heart of visitors’ defence taking numerous men to bring him down. As the ball was spread wide, good hands by Hunter and Rea put Burns in under the posts for an all important score which Agnew converted.
The scrums became uncontested when the Holywood prop left the field through injury. Holywood fired everything they could at Larne but they were stifled by a sea of red shirts.
Larne: C Gibson, R McAllister, C Rea, M Crampsey, J McKinty, J McCluggage (Capt), G Jamison, E Hunter, R McIlheron, A McBride, R Thomas, I McIlheron, J Burns, M Agnew, R Garrett.