Larne produced a hard fought 21 – 24 win against Banbridge II’s at Rifle Park in the opening round of the Ulster Junior Cup, their powerful scrum being to hot to handle for the hosts.
Banbridge started well and had Larne trapped in their own half for much of the first quarter but the hosts were unable to find their way over the line as Larne battled hard in defence. A 19th minute penalty was scant reward for Banbridge’s dominance and Larne seemed to to take a lot of confidence from restricting their efforts.
By contrast, Larne were able to breach the Banbridge defence in their first real foray into their territory with Stuart Andrews finishing off a bruising midfield burst from Matthew Agnew. Ryan Garret added the extras to give Larne an unlikely 3 – 7 lead after 22 minutes.
However, the powerful Larne scrum began to get on top and Larne turned the screw for the remainder of the half. Like Banbridge before them, Larne probably should have scored more points in this purple patch but both sides were guilty of poor ball control at contact, with several chances spilled, but their big scrum kept them going forward and after a few attempts Stuart Johnston battled to the line for Larne’s second, Garrett converting.
Bann struck back just before the break with their second penalty to take the game to 6 – 14 as the teams changed ends.
The hosts added a third penalty on resumption and minutes later a well worked move down the right resulted in their first try, to level the game at 14 – all.
The Larne scrum came to their rescue and, with a steady supply of penalties, they were able to work their way up field for Garret to send Aaron McBride over off the back of that all conquering scrum. Garret added the conversion and five minutes later he stepped up to send over a penalty to give Larne a 14 – 24 lead with ten minutes remaining.
Bann upped their efforts and the crossed three minutes later for a converted try to give the game a tense final few minutes but that Larne scrum, allied with huge defensive efforts from Jonny Cole, Eddy Hunter Barry McFaul and fullback Andrews, managed to keep Larne’s noses in front at the final whistle.
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