Larne RFC crowned Ophir Sevens champions

Larne RFC celebrate winning Ophir 7s.  INLT 34-691-CON
Larne RFC celebrate winning Ophir 7s. INLT 34-691-CON
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Heading to the Ophir 7s the Larne team had a quiet confidence and a little optimism of causing a few upsets, but knew the task of winning would be more than difficult.

Drawn in a group with All Ireland League opposition in Queens University and Ballynahinch along with Q1 and Q2 opponents Academy, Lisburn and Bangor, the prospect of even progressing out of the group stages looked ever more doubtful.

In the first round of the groups the Larne men faced Bangor.

From the first kick off, a great chase by Cole put the catcher under pressure, who fumbled kindly for Burns to pounce on the ball and score under the posts.

This seemed to settle any prematch nerves and put the team into their stride. A solid defensive line saw little break through until the second half after the game was out of sight. Larne ran away the 26-12 victors.

Next up was was tournament favourites Queens; this proved a much tighter affair. Again defence was key, hits from Hunter and Thomas seen little break through.

An unfortunate refereeing decision saw Larne captain Garrett leave the field for two minutes in what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate tackle.

The six held out well and the team managed to pull out narrow 10-7 winners.

Ballynahinch were the next to challenge the underdogs and met the same results as the previous opponents.

Again another tight match but good line breaks from Hall and Smyth saw a two-try gap open and Larne coast to victory.

The tails were truly in the air at this stage and having taken a few big scalps early in the tournament, confidence began to grow and the Larne men started to sense an upset was on the cards.

The final two group stage matches against Academy and Lisburn proved easier than imagined and Larne ran out comfortable winners in both games.

McAlister unfortunately picked up a foot injury which ruled him out for the rest of the tournament. The reduced squad of nine knew this would make the task ahead slightly harder with fewer options for tactical substitutions.

Having progressed as winners of the group they faced the home team of Ophir in the semi-final in what proved to be a hearty challenge by the hosts.

More solid defence from Agnew and Jamison saw any attacks extinguished. The mistakes started to appear as the rain came down and the Larne men took advantage of these mistakes.

They didn’t take the foot off the gas and went a few tries ahead, showing a willingness to keep the ball alive and keen to attack at pace.

Having made it to the final they would face Queens for the second time. Not only was there a trophy on the line but the team knew Queens were out to right the earlier defeat.

It was apparent that the efforts of pre-season fitness proved a big factor come this stage of the tournament; Larne showed little effects of any fatigue setting in.

As a team Larne stuck together in both attack and defence.

A true squad effort saw the final being won by a 14-5 margin to the delight of the few die hard Larne fans and coaching staff on the sidelines.

Credit to the players who stuck at it and set the stalls for what can hopefully be a successful year.