Larne 1st XV’s fine form continued on Saturday with a convincing 77-0 win over PSNI in Qualifying 3.
Coach Laurence Kelly made a lot of changes to the side which beat Newry last time out: Craig Gibson, Matt Crampsey and Eddie Hunter came in to the pack, and there was a debut for Jordan Burns at outside-centre and a well-deserved start on the wing for Matthew Agnew.
Skipper McCluggage lost the toss at the start of the game and, as a result, Larne played into the wind in the first half.
Rampaging winger Rhys Thomas gave showed signs of what was to come when finished off a well-taken score early on. It was was the start of the floodgates beginning to open.
There were tries in the first half for Ricky McIlheron, Ryan Garrett (two), Ryan McAllister and another for Thomas.
Larne played with superb fluidity with quick ball allowing Aaron McBride to bring centres Mills and Burns into the game. As they created havoc in the midfield, and space opened up for Thomas, Garrett and Agnew to run at the PSNI.
In the line-out, the forwards worked well with Crampsey dominating in both attack and defence. The scrums also held firm against a much larger and heavier pack.
The PSNI battled to get a grip on the game and attacked the Larne defence, however the men in red stood firm.
A good line break by the PSNI centre saw him go close to the line, only to be knocked back by a great covering tackle from full-back, Garrett.
At half time the score was 50-0 but Kelly warned his troops against complacency and in the second session further scores for the two McIlheron brothers, Ryan McAllister, Thomas, Agnew and Eddie Hunter saw Larne seal a 77-0 victory.
Captain James McCluggage said: “The new combinations seemed to work well. Crampsey and I rekindled our second-row partnership from previous seasons and continued were we left off complimenting each well.
“Eddie Hunter added composure at the back of the scrum with great hands. McIlheron and McBride did well at half-backs and the centre combination of Mills and Burns looked very exciting. However, the Larne man of the match was open side Mark McIlheron who, is in outstanding form at the moment.”
This weekend Larne entertain major rivals Holywood in their final group game of the Gordon West Cup.
The team has asked for as much as support as possible to cheer them on.
Larne: C Gibson, R McAllister, C Rea, M Crampsey, J McCluggage (Capt), G Jamison, M McIlheron, E Hunter, R McIlheron, A McBride, R Thomas, G Mills, J Burns, M Agnew, R Garrett.
Elsewhere, Larne III travelled to Bangor and won 55-10.