LARNE Grammar booked their place in the second round of the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup thanks to a 31-7 win over Cambridge House, writes Calum McKay.
Larne kicked off playing into the wind in front of their largest crowd this season. After retrieving the restart and a box-kick from scrum-half Rory McDowell, the home side went on to win a succession of penalties with back-rowers Connor Connelly and captain Ethan Kerr causing problems at the breakdown. The strong, functioning line-out combination of Marc McAlister, Jack Buchanan and Luke Cameron helped the team on their way up the pitch. Then, with a five-metre scrum in Cambridge House’s 22, Connelly spun over the visitors’ line for an early try, which was unconverted.
Cambridge House replied almost immediately, with second-row Mark McIlroy battering his way over Larne’s line for a converted try after a spilled restart.
The home team gradually worked their way up the pitch with some clever tactical kicking by out-half Sam McIlwaine. Strong carries from centres Alistair Burke and Alan Murray helped the team gain territory with aggressive drives by the forwards. But some sloppy penalties allowed the visitors to clear their lines and relieve the pressure.
Larne defended superbly for the short remainder of the half to lead 7-5 at the break.
Early in the second sesion, Connelly almost spun his way over the five-metre line, leaving the ball for prop Kris Rea - a replacement for Connor Weir - to pick up and drive over for Larne’s second try, which was unconverted.
Tactical kicking and strong driving play from the home forwards put Cambridge House under pressure and this resulted in three further tries for Larne with Burke scoring two and Connelly landing his second of the game. All of the scores were converted by full-back, Calum McKay.
Larne kept up the pressure for the remainder of the game with storming runs from Kerr and Rea, and showed strong defensive ability when it mattered.
When the referee blew his final whistle, Larne Grammar were deserved winners in their best match this season, with a final score of 31-7. Connelly was awarded Man of the Match, just ahead of captain Kerr.
Larne’s next match is scheduled for Saturday, December 15, away to Dalriada.