Larne 1st XV returned from Holywood on the wrong end of a 45-22 scoreline on Saturday.
“It was a below-par performance and we got our just rewards,” said team captain, James McCluggage. “This is, hopefully, a wake-up call to show the league will not be a walk in the park. We need to dust ourselves down and come back next weekend with a bang. It’s a long season, with plenty of fixtures to be played. Every good team has a bad game in the season, and hopefully we have got ours out of the way early on.”
Laurence Kelly’s side started the brighter of the two teams with Garrett, Mills and Ian McIlheron breaking the home line within the first five minutes.
However, the visitors took the foot off the pedal and Holywood racked up 12 points within a short space of time and Larne lost Eddie Hunter to the sin bin.
As Larne began to get back into the game, Phil Andrews slotted over a penalty to bring the score to 12-3.
Holywood were reduced to 14 men with a sin-binning which Larne capitalised on when full-back Garrett danced his way through for a well-taken score.
Larne ill-discipline at the breakdown allowed Holywood another kickable three points. With five minutes remaining of the half, a well-taken catch by Chris Rea set up a good platform for the backs to spread the ball.
Garrett broke the line of defence again. As he neared the opposition full-back he passed inside to Ian McIlheron who dived over for a score. Andrews missed the conversion and scores were level, 15-15, at the break.
In the second session ill-discipline again allowed Holywood another three points, courtesy of a penalty.
Larne moved up field immediately and had the majority of possession, however, their attacking game was littered by handling errors and poor passes.
But Scott Montgomery broke the line to pass to Gary Mills who went over for a score which Andrews converted.
At 22-18 in front the Larne team and spectators thought that his was the swing in the game. However, a knock-on at the restart and scrum which went back at the rate of knots saw Holywood break through to score under the sticks.
However, this was at a cost with Ian McIlheron having to leave the field of play after an injury.
With Larne reduced to 14 men, the wheels were off and the floodgates opened with Holywood dominating the rest of the game.
Things got worse when Sam McWhirter left the field of play reducing the Larne men to 13. At this point Holywood ran in another two scores to claim a 45-22 win.
Next week’s fixtures: Larne 1st XV v Letterkenny 1st XV (home); Larne 2nd XV v Cooke 2nd XV (away).
Larne Seconds entertained Lisburn at home and came out 38-22 winners in a hard-fought victory.
Lisburn started the game well and tested the Larne defence. But the home side turned things around from the first scrum of the game providing a platform for the backs to work with when Nick Kelso pierced the Lisburn line and offloaded to Ryan Gabbey, who ran down the touchline to score. McBride duly converted.
Lisburn gathered themselves and a scrum in the Larne 22 resulted in good wide ball for the winger to score an unconverted try in the corner.
Injury saw the visitors reduced to 14 men and Aaron Carter, recognising the space on a counter attack, kicked the ball and a favouring bounce popped up for him to score in a great individual try.
With Larne in the lead, they kept the pressure on and it was Michael Stirling’s break which made hard yards and Aaron McBride score a converted try under the posts.
Jordan Burns made his presence felt when he ran 80 metres of the pitch before being tackled. In the resulting scrum, he finished off the last 20 metres with good footwork and with McBride’s conversion, the half-time score led 24-5.
Lisburn applied early pressure again when their pick-and-go momentum carried over the line to give them the first score of the half, only for Jordan Burns to run in his second try of the day through another long-distance attack.
A yellow card for Michael Stirling saw Lisburn score twice in a short period of time as they carved their way through the Larne defence.
But Mark McIlheron rounded the off with last-gasp try.
Larne 2nds: R. Adair, S. Smyth, D. McCann, C. Mckinty, G, Liddle, L. Cameron, M. Stirling, M. McIlheron, B. Garrett, A. McBride, N.Kelso, G. Knox (c), J. Burns, R. Gabbey, A. Carter.