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Randalstown find perfect mix of youth and experience

By Ronnie Ingram

Randalstown's successful recruitment programme over the summer has produced positive results for the Thirds, who are undefeated after their first three games in Junior 4.

Andy Harris and Mark Strange have come straight from Antrim Grammar and have joined Jamie Orr and Conor Murray, who have progressed from the Under-19s.

These youngsters have blended well with old hands Sammy Hyndman, Ricky Loughlin and James Millar in a side whose average age is under 23.

Having already accounted for Instonians III (27-15) and Donaghadee II (20-19), it was the turn of Ballymoney III to suffer defeat on Saturday by a scoreline of 20-12, although it took Town 30 minutes to put points on the board.

A clever kick from Benji Cathcart caught the Ballymoney defence out and Peter McWhirter was on hand to chase, gather and touch down. Ballymoney hit back immediately when a forward rumble led to Gareth Rankin crashing over from five metres out.

"We went back on the offensive after Ballymoney hit back and James Millar and Peter McWhirter combined to put Ben Winter under the posts. Conor Murray converted and added a penalty before the interval to put us 15-5 in front," explained Randalstown manager Gregor Sloane.

"We continued to apply pressure after the restart and a constructive period of play saw Ricky Loughlin scamper over in the corner. Maybe we became a bit overconfident at that stage as we appeared to ease off and allowed Ballymoney back into the game.

"They fought back gamely and put pressure on us for a time and were just rewarded for their efforts."

The home try came after 65 minutes when a quickly taken penalty on the '22' allowed No 8 Neal Campbell to go in for Ryan Brace to add the points. Although beaten, Ballymoney captain Campbell was pleased with his team's improvement.

He said: "We have had a disappointing start but this was a much better performance. We are still attempting to gel as a team as most have not played together before."

Ballymoney had already lost 42-0 to Donaghadee II and 30-0 to Instonians III and now travel for another difficult assignment at Ballymena IV on Saturday while Randalstown have a week's rest.

Other Junior 4 results: City of Derry III 23 Ards III 12, Coleraine III 6 Carrickfergus III 3.

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