City of Armagh 4’s 00 Malone 4’s 18 Butler Shield

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City of Armagh 4’s 00 Malone 4’s 18

The City of Armagh 4th XV took the field for the first time in 2015 following a lengthy absence as a result of a series of league fixtures being called off due to declining weather conditions and teams being unable to field. Although you would not have been able to tell this from looking at the game and this is testament to the hard work carried out by the guys at their training during this period. A large downpour before the game resulted in a greasy ball and heavy conditions underfoot this contributed to poor handling by both teams in the early stages of the encounter. It was the visitors who drew first blood when they converted a penalty in front of the posts following some indiscipline by the Armagh forwards at the breakdown. Possession was traded between the two teams several times for the next ten minutes or so with no team able to gain the upper hand due to both defences performing admirably. Malone then had a man sin-binned for a stamping offence on Armagh prop Robert Dougan, he was extremely lucky he only received a yellow card for his misdemeanour. The hosts had a few good charges during the next ten minutes including some great attacking runs from the returning fullback William Armstrong and debutant Glenn Hawthorne. The best chance of the first half fell to Phil Mills which saw him just metres shy of the line following some quick thinking from a penalty where he caught the Malone defence sleeping. Despite the numerical advantage Armagh failed to capitalise on the opportunity. With the Malone flanker reinstated Armagh were put under sustained pressure and after a few frantic clearances the first half action was brought to a close. Half Time Score: Armagh 0 Malone 3

Armagh kicking off the second half put Malone under pressure right from the off, the ball was knocked on by one of their pack and Matthew Heaney opted to kick into the corner. Armagh now saw them with a great chance to put some points on the board with a lineout in the red zone. Unfortunately the ball was stolen and the visitors proceeded to work the ball up the field with some strong runs from their open side flanker. The Armagh defence was spread and Malone crossed in the corner for the first try of the game. The conversion was scored and that left the scores at 10-0 to Malone with about five minutes gone in the second half. With a large chunk of the game still remaining the lads heads did not drop they continued to attack, another powerful run by William Armstrong saw him deep inside the opponents 22 evading the tackles of several of the Malone defenders. William proceeded to offload the ball to the oncoming winger David Loughran who could taste the chalk he was that close to the line, only for him to knock the ball forward and foil arguably Armagh’s greatest chance of the game. From the resulting scrum some indiscipline set in after the ball was released which saw the ball turned over. A series of quick tap and goes saw prop Eoin O’Hagan falling inches short of the line, Eoin received a nasty boot to the face for his troubles which the referee dually noted and gave the perpetrator a red card from his second act of unsportsmanlike conduct of the day. Armagh finally crossed the line through James Gribben only for the ball to have been held up by the resilient Malone defence. Malone worked their way up the field and the hosts conceded a rather harsh penalty in a kickable position, however the penalty was struck against the post and justice was done. The ball was run up the field through Centre Ryan Murray only for the ball to be turned over following a lack of support once he hit the ground. Malone opted to run the ball through their backs and they were gaining serious yards and were rewarded for their efforts with the second try of the game, however it was not an easy try with the host’s defence preventing them from crossing the line time after time. They could only last for so long and eventually one of their props crawled over the line. Thankfully the resulting conversion dropped short. The spirit of the Armagh lads did not relent they continued to take the game to the visitors, soon however Armagh themselves were reduced to 14 men only temporarily though when Robert Dougan was binned for a second offence at the breakdown following a stern warning by the referee after the first occasion. Armagh decided to mix it up a little with nothing to lose bringing a kicking game into the contest and it nearly worked to great effect when Fly-Half Matthew Heaney provided a delightful grubber kick to the corner and Captain David Loughran was nearly in again only for his opposite number to kick the ball to touch. Malone won the line out and again moved the ball through their backs and one of them was released through the centre of the Armagh defence a superb tackle by fullback William Armstrong prevented a near certain try. Tempers began to flare between both teams and the referee used this as a great chance to call the game to a halt. Full Time Armagh 0 Malone 18

Unfortunately this saw the end of Armagh’s participation in the cup for this year and any realistic chance of silverware slipping away from them with their league position somewhat off the pacesetters. Whilst a lot of people will have looked at this fixture with fear following the defeat in which Malone 5s inflicted on the lads earlier in the year, all of the players can hold their heads high as they battled for the entire 80 minutes and were rather unlucky not to score a couple of tries themselves. Indeed on another day the result of this fixture could have easily been reversed. Best on the day for Armagh were Matthew Heaney, William Armstrong, Phil Mills and Eoin O’Hagan.

Team: 15. William Armstrong, 14. David Loughran (Capt.), 13. Ryan Murray, 12. Rory McCreesh, 11. Glenn Hawthorne, 10. Matthew Heaney, 9. Robert Davidson, 1. Robert Dougan, 2. Gareth Graham, 3. Eoin O’Hagan, 4. James Gribben, 5. Alex Starrett, 6. Conor O’Neill, 7. Phil Mills, 8. David Black.

Replacements: 16. Rueben Brown, 17. Matthew Mallon, 18. Aaron Wright.

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