ARMAGH Rugby 20 Ballyclare Rugby 17
Saturday afternoon saw Armagh entertain Ballyclare at The Palace Grounds in the second round of the Powerade Towns Cup. In an effort to accommodate the enthusiastic Armagh supporters, the kick-off had been brought forward to 1-00pm. The Armagh team along with the Ballyclare supporters and team had arrived and were warmed up and ready for the early kick off but where was the referee? Unfortunately the authorities had forgotten to inform the referee, Richard Chambers, of the revised arrangements and he was en route from officiating at a school game in Downpatrick.
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Eventually, after a thirty-minute delay, the game got underway. Ballyclare were on a definite high after travelling deep into Tyrone and trouncing Omagh last Saturday. The heavy drizzle failed to dampen both teams enthusiasm as everyone involved in rugby in Ulster is just fed up with games being postponed due to frozen grounds. A little rain and delayed kick-off was never going to be allowed to dampen the arder of true rugby supporters.
Five minutes into the game saw Armagh’s winger, Matthew Irwin, score a fine try in the left corner. Adam Gowing’s conversion went wide to put the score at 5-0. This didn’t deter the Ballyclare team, indeed, they were seen to rob Armagh’s line-out ball on several occasions and were able to turn over the forwards in at least three rucks. Just before the break, the Ballyclare out half launched a kick into the Armagh ‘22’. The Armagh defence failed to secure the ball and the Ballyclare winger touched down. The conversion went wide to leave the half time score at 5-5.
After only five minutes, play into the second half Ballyclare were caught offside in front of their post. Adam Gowing’s kick put Armagh into a slender 8-5 lead. At the re-start, a few spectators were seen to retire to the clubhouse to view the Italian/ Irish Six Nations game. Despite this distraction, the noisy, resolute band of Ballyclare supporters remained in the rain to encourage their team.
Armagh’s right-winger, Andrew Willis, went over to score a fine try in the 60th minute of play. The conversion went wide to leave the score at 13-5. shortly after this, the visitors scored a try on the right wing after a neat interception. Again, the conversion went wide to leave the score at 13-10. Five minutes before the final whistle the Ballyclare side scored just to the right of the posts. This time the conversion was successful and the visiting tam and supporters celebrated at knocking Armagh out of the Towns Cup with the score resting at 13-17. Armagh, however, had at last summoned up some of their legendary true grit. The forwards dug deep and rolled a maul over the Ballyclare line just to the left of the posts. Adam Gowing’s conversion put the score to 20-17. The referee announced the there were two minutes of play left. Armagh just had to retain possession and the game was on but even this was challenged by Ballyclare right to the final whistle!