ARMAGH Rugby I XV 23 v COLERAINE Rugby I XV 10 & Armagh Rugby II 38 v Coleraine Rugby II 0

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It was with a certain degree of trepidation that Armagh faced Coleraine on Saturday. This was the first league game of season and it was this team which came down to Armagh at the tail end of last season and made Armagh work really hard to get their bonus point. Alright, there was the resounding defeat of Ballymena second’s fresh in everyone’s mind but this was not a second fifteen and it was not the so-called Conference League this was the real thing!

The game was played in continuous, steady rain. There was no wind to contend with but the ball was going to be difficult to handle throughout the match. The game had only kicked-off one minute when Armagh were awarded a penalty which Steenson slotted over to put the home side on the score-board. Coleraine responded with a period of intense pressure when they pinned the home side in their own ‘22’. The visitors’ response indicated that they were not going to be beaten easily. The referee failed to hear Armagh’s full-back, Steenson, call for a mark when he fielded a Coleraine kick in his own ‘22’. The rest of the home side appeared to pause, momentarily and that delay was enough to give Coleraine the initiative and resume the pressure. It was only eased when right winger, Johnny Allen made a spirited break down his wing. When the Coleraine winger managed to catch Johnny the ball was skilfully off-loaded to flanker, Andy Hughes, who was then able to score a fine try. The conversion went wide bringing the score to 8-0. This off-loading was difficult to repeat as by now the rain was falling even heavier making the ball especially greasy. The Armagh backs seemed to be impatient for the win and were seen to rush their passing resulting in numerous knock-ons! Twenty minutes into the game Armagh were awarded a penalty and chose to put the ball in the corner only to lose possession in the line-out. The Armagh assistant coach, Colin Atkinson was seen to fall awkwardly in a tackle. He was substituted by newly recruited centre, Hooks. Later in the evening it came to light that Colin had broken a bone in his hand and would be out of action for at least six weeks.
Flanker, Peter Elliot, made a strong break down the centre and seemed odd-on for a try only to be the victim of another handling error! Number 8, James Morton, made a similar break five minutes later with an identical handling error the only reward! Left winger, Alexis Luneau made a beautiful break down his wing and was forced to kick ahead which was fielded by the Coleraine full-back. Luneau’s tackle on the defender made a definite impression on the Coleraine man! By this stage the lighter Armagh pack were beginning to take control of the scrums and in the 28th a scrum was turned leaving scrum-half, Freddie Cuttle, the opportunity to make a dash into the right corner for what must be the most opportune try of the season so far. The conversion went wide to leave the score at 13-0. On the stroke of half-time Coleraine were awarded a penalty when the Armagh front row were seen to be boring. The resultant kick brought the score to 13-3 at the break.
After the break Armagh were awarded another penalty to bring the score to 16-3. In the 34th minute the Coleraine prop forward was yellow carded. After three disallowed tries Armagh eventually were awarded the third try when the pack rumbled a rolling maul from 15 metres out to score five metres from the left corner. The conversion was successful bringing the score to 23-3. In the dying minutes of the game Armagh appeared to lose concentration and failed to stop the Coleraine left winger who went on to score at the posts. The conversion brought the final score to 23-10.
On the whole Armagh were the better side by far but to suffer so many handling errors and then to fail to secure the crucial bonus point will, no doubt, haunt them before the end of the season. The body language of the home side at the final whistle said it all. The coach’s post match team said it all ‘A win is not good enough we need a bonus point from every league game’.

Armagh II 38 v Coleraine II 0 – REPORT TO FOLLOW

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