The Smiley Monroe Lisburn 1st XV won a bottom of the table clash with rivals Grosvenor last Saturday and as a result moved into third bottom spot in what is a hectic race to avoid relegation.
Lisburn’s season has been dogged by unfortunate injuries to key players at the wrong time and as a result have lost numerous games that they would in the normal course of events have expected to win.
This encounter with the bottom club was by no means a given and Grosvenor arrived full of confidence.
The match was preceded by a minutes’ silence in memory of former club stalwart Ken Elliott who died last week.
He was one of the people responsible for the re-formation of the Club after the war in 1947 and was Captain in 1954/55 and 1957/58. He will be greatly missed at Blaris.
Playing on a firm pitch but on a wet and windy day, Lisburn started on the offensive sure in the knowledge that this was a must win game for both clubs.
The early pressure led to a penalty in front of the posts on seven minutes but unfortunately the kick went wide. However, outhalf Andrew Gilmore made amends twelve minutes later with a more difficult effort to put Lisburn into a three point lead.
Lisburn’s set pieces were not going as well as normal and a scrum just minutes later was badly fractured and one of the Grosvenor back row ran with the ball from the ten metre line to evade despairing tackles and score. 3-5 to Grosvenor. With ten minutes to go to the interval Lisburn continued to attack the visitor’s line and a fine score by Andrew Gilmore once again put them in front by 8-5. However, Grosvenor were playing a running game and with their strong back row making inroads, they ran in another try to make it 8-10, a lead that only lasted minutes as Gilmore again kicked an excellent penalty to put them into an 11-10 lead at the interval.
After the restart Lisburn immediately put Grosvenor under severe pressure in the scrums following the introduction of fresh legs in the shape of Captain Tom Frazer and Mark Gilkinson in the front row.
Two scrums on the Grosvenor line led to a penalty try and with the conversion Lisburn were suddenly into an 18-10 lead.
This did not last long as an injudicious tap back near the Lisburn line saw a Grosvenor forward run onto the loose ball and to pick it up for a soft five pointer. 18-15.
To make matters worse, Lisburn at this stage lost influential outhalf Andrew Gilmore to an arm injury but they still continued to bring the game to Grosvenor in what was now a very open match, despite the difficult conditions.
With ten minutes to go the Grosvenor inside centre took advantage of a gap in the midfield defence and floated through the space without a finger being laid on him. The conversion made it 18-22 and Lisburn were staring defeat in the face.
The final ten minutes were frenetic as Lisburn tried once again to unlock the visitor’s defence but all efforts were failing as the Grosvenor sniffed victory as the time clock wound down.
With almost forty minutes up Lisburn got possession and Chris Knox, having moved in to outhalf, ran out into broken play and got his backline moving.
Winger Scott Hughes took the ball down to the opposition 22 and when cornered placed a smashing pass into the hands of his namesake Alan Hughes and the big second row pinned back his ears to dash through for the score. The Knox conversion made it 25-22 and Lisburn were able to play out the final two minutes for a grateful win.
The 2nd XV also ground out a win over Rainey 3s in a mud bath on the adjoining pitch and now take on Randalstown 2s at Blaris on Wednesday evening.
The 3s travel to Ballymoney 3s while the 1st XV have a free date.