Armagh Rugby CLub notes: I XV v Limavady & Portadown + 4 League Games In 11 Days!

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PORTADOWN Rugby I XV 22 v ARMAGH Rugby I XV 31
This local derby game was always going to be the game in junior Ulster rugby which would have a telling effect on the 20010-11 Qualifying League season.
The weather conditions could only be described as idyllic with 14.5 degrees sunshine with the slightest of breezes; indeed, the Portadown club had done a wonderful job in their preparations for the game. As the supporters entered Chambers Park they were greeted with a real party atmosphere with beer counters, coffee booths, and loud music. The pitch and surrounding grassed areas were in perfect condition. The scene was set and all the enormous crowd needed was an exciting game of rugby. They certainly were not to be disappointed!
As the teams took the field everyone could see that the players were each and every one wound up to an extra degree. This was going to be a game with a degree of passion the like of which is seldom seen or experienced in amateur sport.

After the kick off it was obvious that this local derby game was defiantly going to be a spectacle as the visitors were penalized for off-side just to the left of their posts. The kick was successful and Portadown were suddenly 3-0 up after only four minutes play. Armagh responded with a brave try when lock forward, Phill Hill touched down in the left corner. Before awarding the try the referee consulted the Portadown touch judge who confirmed that the touch-down was legitimate. Unfortunately the conversion went wide so the score stood at 3-5. The heavier Portadown forwards were stamping their authority on the scrimmaging. Indeed they were able to move the lighter Armagh pack several metres even before the ball was put into each scrum! Surprisingly, however, in open play the more nimble Armagh pack were continually able to turn over the home pack. After one of these turnovers the Armagh right winger, Andrew Willis scored a fine try to put the score at 3-10. Again the conversion went wide but Armagh confirmed that they had come to Portadown to play their style of fast, open rugby. The first quarter of the game had to be Armagh’s.
From the restart Portadown launched an attack only when Armagh were penalised for straying off-side was the pressure eased. The kick was successful which brought the score to 6-10 and Portadown were right back into the game. While the heavier Portadown were able to control the scrums the more mobile Armagh forwards were playing with great spirit and were seen to win several turn-overs in the second quarter. Yet again Armagh were penalised for a rucking offence. Again the kick was on target and with the score now 9-10 Portadown could be seen to step their play up a gear. The home pack used a rolling maul to take the play some 25 metre up the field to within 10 metres of the Armagh line. Yet again the Armagh backs were caught straying off-side and the kick put Portadown ahead at the half time break with the score at 12-10.
The game had swung in Portadown’s favour in the second quarter. Just after the re-start Armagh stole a line-out and the Armagh scrum-half Matthew Irwin broke through the defence to score an opportune try. The conversion was on target to bring the score to 12-17. Armagh were penalised again for off-side and the Portadown kick brought the score to 15-17. By now Brian Bassett was struggling with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Johnny Clarke. Portadown were penalised for coming into a ruck from the side but the kick dropped just short. The tension at this stage of the game had the large crowd of Chambers Park on their toes. Armagh suffered a serious setback when their out half Adam Gowing was sin-binned for a late tackle. Despite another penalty kick, drifting off target the Portadown side appeared to have the upper hand now that the visitors were reduce to fourteen players. Despite this numerical disadvantage the Armagh captain, Johnny Steenson, scored a fine try at the posts. He went on to convert this and bring the score to 15-24. Andrew Morton replaced Brian Patterson in the Armagh front row. The Portadown side put a series of quick phases of play and scored a try just to the right of the Armagh posts. To add to Armagh’s troubles this was converted to bring the score to 22-24. The third quarter could have gone to either side perhaps Armagh were seen to put on a more resolute display when they were reduced to fourteen players. When Gowing returned to the field the Armagh team appeared to play with renewed vigour. Portadown were penalised just inside their half for not releasing a player after a tackle. The kick to touch led to a push over try but the referee was unsighted and was forced to award a five-metre scrum. From this scrum the Armagh forwards fed the ball to prop, Andrew Morton, who scored a fine try just left of the posts. This was converted to bring the score to 22-31. With only five minutes left to play the game was seen to slip away from Portadown’s grasp.
As the referee blew the final whistle the visiting team and supporters started the celebrations. Apparently it is more than twenty five years since Armagh have scored a win over their neighbours! When all is said and done Armagh scored five tries to Portadown’s one. The more vital fact is that Armagh secured a winning bonus point and Portadown got nothing for their efforts.

ARMAGH Rugby 32 V LIMAVADY Rugby 25
Tuesday evening saw Armagh entertain Limavady at the Palace Grounds. This league fixture was played just three days after Armagh had defeated Bangor in another home league fixture. In an effort to let some of the Armagh squad recover from niggling injuries the coaching team, Andy Hughes and Colin Atkinson, were forced to rest several of the regular team.
From the kick-off the Limavady team showed that they were going to make Armagh work very hard if they wanted to win this game. Within three minutes play Limavady scored a pushover try. The conversion went wide but with the score at 0-5 Armagh knew that they had a hard night’s work ahead. Indeed, it was only after twelve minutes play that Armagh managed to force the play out of their own half! After fifteen minutes play Armagh’s number 8, Stewart Lambe, scored a try at the posts. This was converted to bring the score to 7-5. Within two minutes Armagh’s flanker, Johnny Clarke, broke away and fed the ball to Adam Gowing who scored at the right corner. The conversion went wide to bring the score to 12-5 but shortly after Limavady scored a try and the conversion evened the score at 12-12. The home side were penalised for off-side and the successful kick brought the half time score to 12-15.
The second half started better for the home side as centre, Andy Holmes, scored at the posts. The conversion put the score to 19-15. Not to be outdone Limavady scored to put them ahead 19-20. A successful penalty put Armagh back I the lead at 22-20. Twenty-eight minutes into the second half saw Limavady score a fine interception try. The conversion went wide but Limavady were now leading with the score at 22-25. Limavady were penalised in front of their posts for handling in a ruck. The kick levelled the score at 25-25. In the dying minutes of the game Armagh centre, Andy Holmes scored a beautiful try in the left corner when be burst through the Limavady defence. Johnny Steenson converted to leave the final score at 32-25. This gave Armagh a bonus point but every home spectator thought the game was lost. The players, on the other hand, never gave up and delivered a win. It was a very close thing but another five league points were added to the records.

Over the past eleven days the Armagh squad have played four League fixtures against Cooke, Bangor, Limavady and Portadown.
They have managed to pull this busy schedule off with four league victories. They have scored one hundred and forty points for with sixty one points against! But crucially they have added nineteen league points to their tally.
Not to get carried away with past records they have to pack their bags and travel north to Coleraine on Wednesday evening for what could be the hardest fixture of the season.

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