Armagh Rugby Club Notes: I XV v Ballynahinch RFC I XV & II XV Back To Winning Ways

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IT was another disappointing day at the office for Armagh on Saturday as they slipped to an Ulster Senior League defeat at the Palace Grounds against Ballynahinch.
The game was far from a classic on a day when free flowing rugby was missing from both sides.
Both sides were locked at 3-3 at half time but 19 unanswered points from Ballynahinch sealed their win.
However the visitors were far from impressive and only managed their three tries when they made the most of Armagh’s errors.
Armagh went into the game with several personnel changes in the pack. Injury deprived coach Andy Hughes of prop Philip Fletcher and back rowers Neil Faloon and James McCall.
As well as that captain Phil Hill was missing while Johnny Steenson’s ankle injury kept him out of contention of returning at full-back for another week.
The game was switched to the back pitch at the club when it was deemed the main pitch was too hard following the overnight frost.
Chances were few and far between in the opening 40 minutes as both sides cancelled each other out across the park.
However it was the visitors who were edging the game and they should have scored a try on 16 minutes but out-half James Lash dropped the ball at the vital moment.
Armagh were reduced to 14 men when Mark Riddle was sent to the sin-bin on 23 minutes but still ‘Hunch were unable to capitalise.
But the visitors did take the lead three minutes from the beak when Lash sent over a penalty from 45 metres.
Armagh’s response was immediate at in injury time James McBriar slotted over a long-range penalty to level the game up.
The second half, however, was all Ballynahinch and they raced over for their first try on 49 minutes when poor tackling allowed scrum-half Aaron Cairns to race in at the corner. And with Lash adding the conversion, the visitors had a 10-3 lead.
On 65 minutes ‘Hinch increased their lead when Stuart Morrow scored an unconverted try after using an overlap out wide.
And 10 minutes from time the game was put beyond all doubt when James Thompson broke through Armagh’s defence to score a try.
Armagh: Timothy McNeice, Andrew Willis, Richard Reaney, Colin Atkinson, Matthew Wllis, James McBriar, Jacques Van Rooyen, James Johnston, Brian McConnell, Brian Bassett, Tinus Van Wyk, Peter Elliott, Mark Riddle, James Morton.

Armagh Seconds played Ballynahinch seconds in a home 2nd xv league fixture on Saturday on the thirds pitch as the first and second pitches were unplayable due to frost.

The game started with the home forwards under pressure in the scrums, however good driving, mauling by the forwards and intelligent use of the ball by the backs created good field position in Ballynahinch’s 22. After several forward drives, Willie Hill drove over at the corner post for an early score. Matty Steenson converted to put Armagh ahead 7 – 0. Hinch retaliated with a spell of pressure deep in Armagh’s half and were rewarded with a converted penalty to bring the score to 7 – 3. Undeterred, the Armagh pack led by Purdy, Lamb and Gareth McNeice again brought play into the “red zone”. After a good catch and drive from a five metre lineout, David Martin powered over in the same corner as the previous score. Again a confident Steenson added the conversion to put Armagh ahead 14 – 3 on 24 minutes. On the restart, the Hinch forwards continued to take on the solid Armagh forwards up front only to be met with sound a defensive line. On 35 minutes, the Hinch backs created an overlap to send their fullback in at the corner for a good try. With the conversion missed, the halftime score was 14 – 8 to Armagh. With coach Eakin’s timely arrival and the game finely balanced, the pep talk focused on the need to maintain control of the ball and reduce the number of mistakes. On the restart a loose ball on Armagh’s 10 metre line was hacked downfield by a Hinch centre into the home 22. Robbie Faloon did well to redeem the situation but unfortunately the clearance kick was snapped up by Hinch for an unconverted score. This reduced Armagh’s lead to one point at 14 – 13. This score give the Hinch players great encouragement with the Armagh defence tested several times shortly after. Steenson had a long range penalty attempt on target but the ball dropped a few metres short. The forwards were able to supply the backs with a steady ball supply and with the industry and workrate of Steenson and Allan in the centre and John and Robbie Faloon on the wings it was only a matter of time before another score materialised. On 55 minutes after several forward drives the ball was spun out the backs on the visitors 22 to were John Purdywas lurking. He handed off a Hinch centre and burst over the line with several defenders clinging on to touch down mid way out. This was a crucial score to put some daylight between the teams at 21 – 13. Again Hinch attacked and Armagh by this stage were giving away numerous silly penalties.. This was giving Hinch the opportunity to gain good field position to try to close the 8 point margin. As a result, Matty Steenson received a “team” yellow card for a technical offence. A penalty chance was turned down to kick for a lineout 5 metres from the Armagh line. However with the Martin brothers and Hill ruling the lineouts, possession was turned over. The decisive moment of the game came on 75 minutes when the ever alert Freddie Cuttle snapped up loose ball on the half way line. He hared off down the pitch wrong footing the Hinch fullback on the way to touch down at the posts for an unconverted try. This brought the final score to 26 – 13 in Armagh’s favour.
This was a great team performance against a team of Ballynahinch’s calibre with quality entertainment from start to finish.

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