Lisburn lose to league-leaders Larne

David Gilkinson breaks through the Larne defence.
David Gilkinson breaks through the Larne defence.

At Blaris last Saturday Lisburn’s First XV came unstuck for the second week in a row.

The Smiley Monroe sponsored side went down 29-3 to an impressive Larne outfit who currently sit proudly at the top of Qualifying League Two.

Andrew Gilmore hands of a Larne defender

Andrew Gilmore hands of a Larne defender

Lisburn, with three sets of brothers amongst their ranks - David and Mark Gilkinson, Peter and Andrew Weir and Simon and Andrew Gilmore - had been quietly confident after a good build up in training but it was the visitors who opened the scoring with a simple penalty after just five minutes.

Lisburn came right back into it straight away and a great break by inside centre David Gilkinson brought the ball to the Larne line but unfortunately there was nobody on his shoulder when stopped and Larne cleared the danger of an almost inevitable seven pointer.

Lisburn kept pressing and within minutes were knocking on the door again after the ball was moved left through the hands but a breakdown in movement between outside centre Andrew Gilmore, back after injury, and his winger Noel Hooke left another seven points going a begging after the ball went astray.

With these two opportunities unavailed of, Lisburn then allowed Larne to slip in for a score of their own after the back row had driven at the Lisburn line and an inside pass opened the way for a fine try.

Lisburn launch an attack through Tom Fraser

Lisburn launch an attack through Tom Fraser

The conversion made it 0-10 and despite a Knox penalty to narrow the gap, Larne went in at half-time with a seven point margin.

Larne, who had earned promotion from Qualifying League Three last season, then showed why they had progressed so well over the last two years.

From the re-start they began to use their strong running backline to good effect. Their pack was gaining at least parity with the Lisburn eight and always seemed to be getting well beyond the gain line from their set play moves. Their half backs kept putting the ball in front of their team and their follow up running was very effective.

Within five minutes they had opened up a 3-15 lead after Lisburn had lost possession of the ball rather tamely and it was moved through the hands to their big outside centre Jonny Hall who powered through the home defence to score. Five minutes later their pack took control of the ball and their fine back row rucked it over the Lisburn line for another excellent try. The conversion made it 3-22.

In fairness to Lisburn, they continued to try and break down the visitor’s defence but, on the day, seemed to lack the guile and cutting edge to do so.

Whether it was the fact that Lisburn, because of injury and unavailability, had been forced into playing with so many different combinations over the previous few weeks, was a telling factor or not, remains to be seen.

In any case, Larne continued to press for the fourth try bonus point and this came ten minutes from the end after their impressive full-back, Jordan Burns, ran from the half-way line to outstrip the home defence.

The conversion made it 3-29. Lisburn tried hard for a further try and were almost rewarded when a great run to the Larne posts almost yielded one but like the two efforts of the first half, they failed to take advantage and the chance went a begging once again.

The next two Saturdays are free for the first XV and the gap will provide the players and coaching team with an opportunity to think their way towards their next league encounter, against Academy, away.

The Second XV host Cooke Twos this Wednesday under lights (kick-off 7.30pm) while the Third XV, getting a late walkover from Monaghan Twos last week, travel to Ballyclare for a tough fixture against their Third XV (KO 1pm).

This match will be followed by the World Cup Final at 4pm in what is sure to be a big day at the Blaris clubhouse.