With the Firsts sidelined by the news that Monaghan weren’t able to field a team, it was Larne Rugby Club’s Thirds who took centre-stage on Saturday.
They travelled to Malone but it was an afternoon to forget as they lost 52-0.
The two teams are due to meet each other again in next month’s Butler Shield final. No doubt, the men from Glynn will be aiming for a better performance and a drastically different result.
Malone came sprinting out of the traps, putting the Larne lads under sustained pressure. Running phase after phase, the faster reactions of the home side opened up gaps in the Larne defence.
While the visitors plugged those gaps, it was only a matter of time before Malone found their way through, and, with barely five minutes on the clock, they opened the scoring.
Larne tried to reply in kind and at times looked as though they could with Rennix and Abernethy making good yards, while Agnew kicked for position deep in the opposition half.
With McDowell causing all kinds of chaos for Malone at the line-out, Larne pushed hard for a score.
But as fate would have it, the final pass just wouldn’t go to hand and Malone were always there to rally and recover the ball.
An overload of white shirts on the left wing allowed Malone to score their second. The early loss of Hall to injury brought Rennix back into the centre, as replacement Marshall took up residence at full-back. Larne fought on using Knox and Rea as battering rams to roll slowly up the pitch, but again hands let the side down and nothing ever came of the effort the lads put in.
Malone, capitalising on each mistake added three more tries before the end of the half to enter the break leading 33-0.
A quick team talk laid out the plan for improvement in the second half. Two substitutions saw Meikle on for Lough and Jameson for Knox.
Larne started more brightly than in the first-half. Alcorn and Meikle made runs into opposition territory, supported by Garrett and Agnew to spin the ball out to the backs. But while the red shirts managed to slip past many first tackles, a well-drilled machine always seemed to bring the attackers down with the second tackle.
Malone, playing as they did in the first half, looked to exploit gaps in the defence to exploit but failed to find as many. Some lacklustre tackling however allowed the home side to slip another two tries through the back line despite the efforts of Marshall and Mooney.
Malone added the final try just before the final whistle when the number eight crashed through several defenders on the 22, rounding off a 52-0 score line.
It was an unfortunate result for Larne against the league leaders that maybe doesn’t accurately reflect the effort made by the side.
They faced a well-drilled Malone side and on the day the final ball just wouldn’t fall nicely for them. With four weeks until these sides meet again, there is plenty of time to reflect on the mistakes and learn from them; and time to improve the positives that could be taken from the game as well.
Larne III: D. Lough, J. Johnston, A. Ferguson, W. Rea, G. Knox, S. McDowell, M. Alcorn, J. McNee, B. Garrett, M. Agnew, J. Abernethy, J. Hall, A. Murray, D. Mooney, G. Rennix, S. Marshall, G. Jameson, B. Meikle.