Larne Rugby Club’s First XV ran out 50-8 winners over Lurgan on Saturday in their Qualifying 3 campaign.
Larne knew the game could be a complete lottery given the horrendous weather the game was played in.
After a week’s rest, coach Laurence Kelly opted to make several changes to his team. Sam McWhirter came into the pack and Gary Mills made a welcome return to the back line.
Larne won the toss and captain James McCluggage decided to play into the strong wind in the first-half.
From the start the Larne men kept the ball in hand and ran at the Lurgan defence. However, an infringement early on allowed Lurgan on the score sheet first, with a well-taken penalty by their out-half.
This seemed to spur the home side on and their pack grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and stamped their control.
The front row of Gibson, McAlister and McWhirter were dominating at scrum time and Larne won numerous against the head. The pressure finally told when Ricky McIlheron broke through to run in for a great individual effort which Andrews converted.
From the restart a superb catch-and-burst through by Mark McIlheron saw him pass to Ryan McAlister on the half-way line who, with a sudden burst of blistering pace, beat the oncoming defenders.
At this stage the floodgates opened when Larne showed slick handling skills in difficult conditions. There were two scores for Burns and Garrett in quick sucession. Both players used their pace and eye for a gap to go over for well-taken scores.
As the firs- half came to an end, Craig Gibson suffered an injury to his ankle and had to leave the field of play for the rest of the game.
With the wind at their backs in the second-half Larne knew that it would still be difficult with only 14 men.
And credit were credit is due Lurgan came back at the Larne men. They gave their opposition line-out a difficult time and started to gain territory.
As they came back in to the game ill-discipline saw Mills sin-binned for 10 minutes.
Down to 13, Larne were under severe pressure and this finally told a tale when their winger snuck over in the corner for a score.
When Mills came back on to the pitch Larne composed themselves.
Andrews and Garrett pinned the Lurgan back three deep in their half with a good kicking display. And it wasn’t long before Larne were on the score sheet again when Burns broke through to score his third of the afternoon.
McAlister was next to register when a superb reverse pass by Ricky McIlheron put him through for his second. As the half wore on, Agnew raced over for a score after slick handling and intricate play by the forwards.
As the final whistle blew Larne ran out winners 50-8.
Said skipper McCluggage: “This was a very slick and clinical team performance by the men in red in what was difficult playing conditions.
“The team was impressive both in attack and defence, and they look forward to their fixture next Saturday against Carrick in the Hall Cup.”
Larne (1-15) C. Gibson, R. McAlister, S. McWhirter, M. Crampsey, C. McKinty, J. McCluggage (c), M. McIlheron, E. Hunter, R. McIlheron, P. Andrews, M. Agnew, G. Mills, J. Burns, C. Moore, R. Garrett.