At wet and windy Donaghadee last Saturday the Smiley Monroe Lisburn 1st XV finally got just reward for all their hard work on the training pitch.
On a heavy, wet ground Lisburn won the toss and opted to play up the hill and against the wind on what was quite a difficult day for playing constructive rugby.
Nevertheless, both teams tried to move the ball and for the first ten minutes the Dee were camped inside the Lisburn 22m line looking for a way through the tight visitor’s defence.
After being under the pump in that opening period they finally broke out and Fave, playing once again at outhalf, drove them up-field for the backline to attack the Dee line for the first time.
The ball was passed along the line and when halted in the corner, winger Ross Reaney was on hand to pick up and score. 0-5 to Lisburn.
Donaghadee came back with the wind behind them and made numerous efforts to break through the well marshalled Lisburn defence. They were rewarded in the 20th minute when a neat line break out wide allowed them to run in an excellent converted try, considering the conditions.
Lisburn were relying on holding out the Dee until halftime but the conditions dictated otherwise. A hoofed ball from well inside the Dee half was gathered cleanly by the Lisburn backs but a decision to garryowen it high into the air backfired after the wind caught it and blew it back over the defensive line and an onrushing home attacker was on hand to gather the bouncing ball and score. The conversion made it 12-5.
Just when it looked like Lisburn had kept the halftime margin to one score, they gave away a penalty for a high tackle and gifted a further three points to the Dee and an interval lead of 15-5.
The second period was going to be a tough test of the visitor’s credentials, even though they now had the benefit of the slope and the wind and rain.
They started strongly and quickly had the ball down on the Dee line. A five metre scrum had the Lisburn front row of Fraser, Thompson and Gilkinson completely in charge and when the Dee interfered with the ball a penalty try followed – it was also a consolation that it was a similar fate which Lisburn themselves had suffered at the hand of Carrick in their last game. Knox converted to narrow the gap to 15-12.
Ten minutes later Lisburn went ahead for the first time after the pack had won good ball inside the Dee 22. Moving right, outhalf Fave feinted to pass, drew the defence and passed the ball out to right winger Scott Hughes and the little winger scuttled round his opponent to score a great try in the corner. While the conversion failed, Lisburn were now ahead by 15-17.
With 25 minutes still to play, and with all the conditions behind them, it was felt that Lisburn would push on and seek the bonus point fourth try but the Dee came out fighting and made things very difficult for them.
While rarely getting out of their own half, they did try and run the ball at every opportunity as kicking it was a no brainer in the strong wind. Lisburn defended strongly and their backline put down the runners at every opportunity.
In the meantime the Lisburn pack were playing out of their skins in the terrible conditions and the back five of Hughes, Davis, O’Brien, Bevington and Edgar were everywhere, a tribute to their fitness levels and strong defence.
Lisburn eventually capitalised on their territorial advantage and a 40m penalty on 35 minutes by fullback Knox, with the wind behind him, eventually settled the nerves.
This was a tough test of Lisburn’s character but their performance showed a great team spirit, courage and a strong will to win. Next Saturday Lisburn travel to Ballymoney where another major test awaits. The Lisburn 2s, after their good win over Donaghadee 2s at Blaris, also travel to Ballymoney to take on their 2nd XV.