BALLYCLARE were special guests at Glynn on Saturday afternoon as Larne celebrated their centenary, and it was the visitors who edged to a narrow 15-11 Qualifying League Section 2 win.
Larne, without a league win to date, were the underdogs in this local derby played before the largest crowd of the season, but they threatened to produce a shock result. A single point separated the sides going into the final phase of a closely-contested affair, but a late penalty by Gareth Byers secured victory for Ballyclare.
Larne made a few changes from their clash with Limavady. Davy Thomson made his first start at tight-head prop; Chris Rea and Gareth Wright made a welcomed return to the pack and Stephen Marshall and Aaron Carter came back in to the back line. ‘Clare coach Bob Young had to make several changes of his own with Mark Weatherup and David Clarke coming into the back division, while Craig Wallace and Clarke McCartney joined Robert Boyd in the front row.
Larne were first on to the scoreboard when Milliken slotted over a long-range penalty, but soon the White Hare lads forged ahead when Wallace, set up by Gary Weatherup, went in for an unconverted score in the corner.
As Larne got back into the game Garrett and Milliken caused havoc in the visitors’ defence. New start Thomson was very effective in open play drawing in numerous defenders. However, a lapse in concentration allowed Ballyclare centre James Jackson break through the home defence on the halfway line to run through untouched for a converted score.
Larne were back in it before the break, however, as slick passing from backs Garrett Blair set up veteran full-back Marshall to go in for an unconverted score in the corner to leave the score at 12-8 in Ballyclare’s favour at the break.
Early in the second session ‘Clare full-back Byers was under pressure on a couple of occasions, and when the hosts forced a five-metre scrum that produced a free, Milliken scored the penalty which reduced the deficit to a single point.
When Mark Weatherup received a yellow card, Larne failed to make their numerical superiority count when Garrett or Milliken really should have scored.
Having survived this scare, Ballyclare’s Byers kicked a penalty and they held on to secure the win that keeps them in with a shout of challenging for honours with Enniskillen and Bangor.
For Larne it was a much-improved performance, which should boost their confidence as they go in to next week’s tough encounter with Bangor feeling anything is impossible.
Larne: C Rea, C Gibson, D Thomson, M Crampsey, J McKinty, E Hunter, G Wright, J McCluggage, R Garrett, J Milliken, B Blair, A Carter, S Montgomery, B Blair, S Marshall
Ballyclare: R Byers; M Weatherup, J Jackson, D Clarke, N Loughlin; N Lawther, C Morrow; R Boyd, C Wallace, C McCartney, G McKinstry, A Boyd, W Logan, G Weatherup, M Rainey.
Larne fixtures (November 24): Bangor v Larne; Donaghadee 3rd XV v Larne 3rd XV.
Ballyclare fixtures: Carrick II v Ballyclare II; Ballyclare 3rd XV v Belfast Harlequins III.
Ballyclare II lost their Junior League Section 1 encounter with Ballymoney II who triumphed 15-7 at The Cloughan.
After a scoreless first half the Ballymoney lads opened the scoring with a converted try, but soon the scores were level again when Stephen Reid crossed for a touchdown that Robert Smith goaled.
That was as good as it got for the locals with the visitors adding a penalty and a converted try without reply.
Nigel Moore and Matt Irvine impressed in the pack while Ricky McAdam and Smith stood out in the back division.
Ballyclare’s 4th XV had a massive 46-5 win at against Cookstown at The Cloughan where the scorers were: Stevie Crawford (two), Alistair Breen, Darren Montgomery, Ivor Baine, Ian Holmes, Trevor Clarke and Gareth Smith, with John Wasson contributing three conversions.
The Fours are showing up well since being promoted to the Junior League where they have won six of their seven fixtures to date, and are targeting back-to-back promotions.
Youth team results against Newry: Under 13s won 36-7; Under 15s won 17-15; Under 17s lost 22-10.