Armagh launched their 2012-13 season with a trip to Deramore Park to play
Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Senior League. Last season saw Armagh beat
Harlequins when they travelled to The Palace Grounds. To repeat this result,
with an early season away fixture, however, posed a significant hurdle,
selection wise, especially since the Armagh squad was weakened due to the
overlapping cricket demands not to mention the ‘Black Saturday’ commitments.
The playing conditions were perfect at Deramore with a slight
breeze favouring the visitors at the kick-off. From the kick-off it was
immediately evident that Armagh were the more resolute side and when
out-half Richard Reaney landed a penalty after seven minutes the home side
appeared to flag. The first half saw Armagh continue to attack from all
phases of the game only the odd handling error saved the Harlequins from
having more points against them by the break.
Five minutes into the second half saw Colin Atkinson lift a ball
from the base of a ruck and break down the right wing. John Faloon was on
his shoulder in support and was able to touch down a fine try in the right
corner. The conversion, while very high appeared to go wide of the posts.
The body language of the home team appeared to illustrate that they were far
from happy with the situation. However, this languid attitude disappeared in
the final five minutes of the game when the Belfast side appeared to finally
get into gear and started to attack the Armagh line from all angles. Only
for the resolute defence from the Armagh back row especially from ‘man of
the match’ James McCall and James Morton the result could have been tighter.
While one swallow never makes a summer, to travel to Belfast and
defeat a team two leagues above Armagh two seasons in succession is, by no
means insignificant. To stand close to the line and hear the team
communication throughout the game illustrated just how the redesigned
coaching structure is beginning to take shape. This win was not due to any
particular individual but was primarily down to a comprehensive team effort
which was seen to be lacking on occasions last season.
Next Saturday’s sees Armagh entertain Queens University at the Palace
Grounds and this will, no doubt, be a very keenly fought fixture. It was
rewarding to hear the Armagh coaches talk of the latest win being totally
due to a comprehensive team effort and not in any way the result of any sole
individual. Rugby is, after all, a team sport and only teams can win!