Randalstown U16's On The Way to Ravenhill
Randalstown U16's thrilling second half comeback secures Ulster final spot at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Randalstown boys valiantly fought back from a 14:0 half time deficit to win a furiously fought contest against Malone RFC in Belfast with the last kick of the game. The road to the final for this Randalstown team has been especially challenging. They have had to win all away fixtures which included travelling to and competing against Clogher Valley RFC, Rainey Old Boys RFC and a quarter final against Armagh RFC in this hotly contested cup campaign. Saturday 22nd April saw the Randalstown boys face a much fancied Malone side who convincingly won this year’s overall U16 league title.
Their win sees Randalstown progress to the Ulster final at the Kingspan Stadium on the 13th May where they will meet a strong Virginia team to battle it out for the U16 Ulster Club Cup 2017 title.
Randalstown RFC travelled to Malone’s home ground of choice, Cherryvale Playing Fields, to compete in this U16 Cup semi-final match on a dry April morning.
Malone kicked off and seized the early advantage by putting Randalstown under pressure in their own half. Malone produced wave after wave of attack through their forwards and spread play to the wings, however the Randalstown defense was a match for them and on many occasions pushed Malone back as all players contributed to a stout defensive performance. A lot of refereeing decisions which played in Malone’s favour, combined by the fact Randalstown were finding it uncharacteristically difficult to clear their lines, led to a sustained 15 minute period of pressure within the Randalstown 22.
Although Malone attacked they could find no way through and Randalstown finally got possession of the ball in attack moving play out of their own half. Unfortunately this was short lived when a chip through from Randalstown was blocked down in the middle of the park and the Malone player followed in clear space to score under the posts. The conversion was scored. Malone 7:0 Randalstown.
This was the first of two scores to come from Randalstown errors and Malone were quick to capitalise. The second score from Malone also came from a Randalstown attack where a loose ball was kicked through the defence. An awkward bounce of the ball found the Randalstown backs at sixes and sevens allowing a Malone player to chip the ball on again for what would have been a sure try only for this player being impeded. As a result Malone were awarded a penalty try under the posts. The conversion was scored. Malone 14:0 Randalstown
Credit must go to the Randalstown boys who at halftime had a very honest but positive talk drawing a line under the two first half mistakes which saw them 14 points down. They focused on the fact they had defended well for the vast majority of the first half with Malone throwing their best at them.
The second half started with a determined mind set from the Randalstown boys who had put their minds to play their own style of rugby imposing themselves on the opposition. This could be seen instantly from all aspects of their play. Aggression in the lineout saw the Randalstown boys instantly stop any maul from Malone. They won their own ball quick and clean by the efforts of Brandon McAllister and Joel McCavana, and the Randalstown maul functioned very well with Dominic O’Connor, Miguel Correia, Eoin McDonald and Ross Swann making the yards. At the breakdown both Randalstown’s backs and forwards were aggressive and contested every ball. Turn overs came from Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle, Matthew Luke, Peter Cullen with Dominic O’Connor turning over a number of balls. The forwards, marshaled by Oran Gilbert, carried the ball in phases and pushed the Malone defensive line back and set the platform for the backs. Randalstown’s backs were fed quick ball from the hand and boot of Oran Gilbert which allowed runs and phases of play from which Peter Cullen, Cormac Devlin, Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle, Matthew Luke who were assisted in the forward line by Ricardo Correia da Conceicao who all punched holes in the Malone defense. The variety of play left Malone guessing without half Peter Cullen exploiting the drift defense when he stepped inside breaking the gain line on a number of occasions. Con McGee and Jack Johnson covered the flanks well and dealt with any balls kicked into the back field. This saw one memorable fielding of the ball from Jack Johnston, who gathered a tricky Malone kick and then ran at the Malone defense. Eventually this pressure told and with Malone spilling ball in defense Peter Cullen seized the opportunity and chipped the ball through to the try line to score in the corner. The difficult conversion saw a superb strike from Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle to take the extra 2 points. Malone 14: 7 Randalstown.
Malone had few opportunities as Randalstown defended so well and even as play broke up in the last 15 minutes tackles from the forwards and backs stopped any Malone momentum. Randalstown were on the attack, looked in control and pressured Malone on their 5 meter line. Dominic O’Connor and Eoin McDonald took ball right up to the line then quick ball from Oran Gilbert allowed Peter Cullen to crash over for the second try under the post. With a successful conversion from Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle the game was level. Malone 14:14 Randalstown.
With Randalstown in control and on the front foot they did rush opportunities to finish the game and had to wait until the last few minutes of the game for the decider. A penalty was awarded to Randalstown just outside Malone’s 22 but on this occasion Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle’s kick turned wide of the posts at the last. One minute remained on the clock. At this point Malone made a rash decision to kick-off quickly but had a number of players ahead of the kicker. As a result Randalstown were awarded another chance at a penalty kick. From the left hand side of the pitch, just outside the Malone 22, Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle kicked the ball cleanly between the posts for the winning score. Malone 14:17 Randalstown
Credit must go to the Randalstown U16 boys who displayed great resolve by grouping together as a unit, being positive with each other and showing true team spirit that eventually won the game on the day.
Randalstown Under 16 Team
1 Miguel Correia 2 Eoin McDonald 3 Ross Swann, 4 Brandon McAllister 5 Joel McCavana 6 Ricardo Conceicao 7 Adam Manzoor 8 Dominic O'Connor 9 Oran Gilbert 10 Peter Cullen 11 Con McGee 12 Cormac Devlin 13 Stefhan Gabbidon-Lyttle 14 Jack Johnson 15 Matthew Luke