Larne ran out 18-10 winners in a second-against-third Qualifying Three match-up at a rain-soaked Glynn on Saturday.
It was a disjointed game, but for Larne the win was the most important aspect of the match. The preparation was not ideal with Mills and McCluggage out of the picture with injury and illness. However, the two replacements, Colin McKinty and Matthew Agnew, both shone in what was a dogged affair.
The pitch could only be described as ‘touch and go’ with the rain blowing across the pitch. Larne played into the wind in the first half, and they knew they were in for a battle against a much larger forward pack.
It wasn’t long before Newry made their presence felt when they pushed a Larne scrummage backwards. With the turnover ball they fed the ball out their backline and a break saw the Newry centre run over for a score inside the opening five minutes.
As the weather deteriorated, Larne were finding it difficult to clear their lines.
The visitors applied further pressure, disrupting the Larne lineout and giving the home pack a torrid time at scrums.
As Newry pinned Larne in their 22, they were awarded another scrum. As they pushed forward they rumbled over the line for an uncoverted try.
Almost in a state of shock, Laurence Kelly’s men began to claw their way back into the game. With ball in hand, Jordan Burns, McKinty and Agnew made telling breaks. However, the wet ball was leading to handling errors which let Newry clear the lines deep in to the Larne half. The pivotal moment in the game came when Newry were reduced to 14 men after a head injury to their prop.
With Larne enjoying a numerical advantage, Scott Montgomery intercepted a pass to run in under the sticks for a score which Andrews converted.
With the wind at their backs in the second half Larne could feel the momentum swinging in their favour. The one-man advantage in the scrums gave them a platform to work form.
Garrett and Andrews aerially bombarded the Newry defence with booming kicks in to the 22, which created havoc for the visiting back three. And the pressure finally took its toll with Andrews slotting over a penalty in front of the posts to bring the scores level at 10-10.
As Larne continued in the ascendancy, Garrett was kicking the ball beautifully in to the corners keeping Newry in their own 22. The forward pack created quick ball, and it was passed out wide to Nick Kelso who went over in the corner for a well-taken score. Andrews was unable to convert, but Larne led 15-10.
For the remainder of the second session, Newry could only break into the into the Larne half once. Larne pinned the visitors deep in their own half making it virtually impossible for them to get out.
Larne were later awarded another penalty which Andrews slotted over to the sound of the full-time whistle. Larne ran out winners 18-10.Another difficult game awaits this weekend away to Donegal.
Larne: D Lough, G Wright, C Rea, J Cole, M Crampsey, C McKinty, G Jamison, E Hunter, R McIlheron, P Andrews, M Agnew, S Montgomery, J Burns, N Kelso, R Garrett (c).