Narrow loss for Dee against Portadown
Donaghadee 1st XV’s last game of 2013 saw them welcome league leaders Portadown to Donaldson Park. Since Donaghadee regained their top flight status in Junior Rugby these two teams have enjoyed some great encounters and although Donaghadee went into this game in mixed form and with a number of absentees from the starting line-up, there was an air of confidence that the home side could match the mid Ulster team.
The away side dominated the early phases of play however it was Donaghadee who looked most dangerous on the counter attack with Dee skipper Ali Lockhart looking lively from the off.
In the 10th minute Dee wing forward Chris Hamilton ripped the ball from a Portadown attacker mid tackle and immediately burst his way into the Portadown half, intelligently offloading to Paul McKenzie who in turn fed Adam Alexander, allowing the Dee support to get the first glimpse of the exile with ball in hand. After an exciting surge into the Portadown 22 Alexander was brought to ground by the covering defence.
From the resulting piece of play the home side had their first attempt at points however Nigel Barkers effort was pushed narrowly wide. Barker made no mistake with his 15th minute effort to give Donaghadee a deserved 3-0 lead.
Donaghadee continued to dominate play during the mid period of the first half and the reshuffle in the back line that saw player coach McKenzie feature at full-back appeared to be working well with the ex-Ulster man getting the opportunity to break into the line from deep.
It was the wise head of Blewitt however that continued to nudge the home side down towards the clubhouse corner with a number of clever little kicks out of hand that kept the visitors on the back foot.
When Portadown missed a penalty attempt in the 31st minute it looked like the Dee were going to take their slender lead into the second period of play, however two pieces of play just before half time and one at the start of the second half were to ultimately decide the outcome of this league game.
On the 37th minute, after Portadowns first serious retention of ball in the Dee half their talented back row forward Gareth McCoy crashed under the posts from close range after double figure phases of play from the ‘Blues’. The conversion was successful to give McCoy’s team a 7-3 lead.
As the supporters drifted off to get a festive hot beverage in the clubhouse in what was a dry but crisp afternoon Dee went on the attack in first half injury time, again via Alexander whose breezed past a couple of defenders and looked to have offloaded the ball to the oncoming Garnham who had a clear run at the try line. The referee who was well placed however adjudged the ball to have been transferred forward in the offload.
Half Time Donaghadee 3 Portadown 7
The home side started the second period full of purpose and with no shortage of willing and effective ball carriers taking it to the powerful ‘Blue’ pack. The experienced Gareth Gordon and Stuart Hennessey leading by example and getting the very best from the likes of Adam Torrans, David Murray and the returning Ali Barnes who replaced the injured Blair mid way through the first period.
However a failure to clinically capitalize on possession when in the opposition’s territory and a poor clearance kick in the 50th minute went some way to ending this contest.
On taking possession of Donaghadee’s wayward clearance the Portadown fullback launched a text book ‘up and under’ which had the Dee defence on the back foot. The oncoming Portadownn wing forward’s momentum allowed him to collect the ball and unchallenged cross the line for the visitor’s second converted try of the day.
The visitors dominated play in this quarter of the game and effectively took the sting out of any attempts the home side made at regaining a foothold on this game. There were moments were Donaghadee were individually effective in attack but games against teams of this caliber are not won by moments of individual effort and all too often there was a lack of team support to individual breaks leading to a high turnover count in favor of the visitors.
In the 60th minute Portadown extended their lead when after a series of scrum set pieces deep in the Dee 22” the visitors pushed over from close range.
Dee continued to inject enthusiasm and energy into this game and some excellent defensive work from the team, particularly Nigel Barker in the centre of the pitch kept the visitors at bay.
Although it ended up only a consolation try late in the game substitute Matt Stockton scored the finest try of the game in the 80th minute. After a period of pressure from the home side the ball was fed to Stockton who found himself in the backline and appeared to be rather isolated with a number of Portadown defenders ready to pounce. The speedy back row forward however used the fresh legs to take the defenders on the outside and with the help of a strong hand off had enough to score in the far corner in what was a fine solo effort.
With eighty minutes up there was no time for a final rally from the home side to leave the final score Donaghadee 8 Portadown 19.
The score was in the end perhaps a little unkind to Donaghadee who for long period matched or even bettered their opposition in many areas of the game. The Dee team however was second best at the breakdown and this ended up being the area that allowed the visitors to retain possession for longer periods of time in the key areas of the pitch.
The 2nd XV travelled to Ards to play a very strong Hamilton Park 3rd XV and again were narrowly beaten by a 23-15 score line. Back at Donaldson Park BHSFP 2nd XV conceded the league game against the Dee 3rds due to lack of numbers but still travelled with those who were available and, with the Dee lending them a few players, a friendly game was played and twenty six lads got a game of rugby.
Dee 1st XV have a bye in the First Round if the Towns Cup and neither the 2nds or 3rds have a scheduled game.
Narrow loss for Dee against Portadown