Cooke 5 – 43 Armagh

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From the final score sheet on this match might look to have been a one man show, with Matthew “Eddie” Irwin getting 4 of the 6 tries but this was most definitely a team effort from the first whistle to the last.

With a previous cup victory over Cooke, it was hoped that the visiting side would prevail again, and maintain their unbeaten run. Steady heads and equally steady play allowed the Armagh men to gradually make their way up the pitch but it was superb linking play from the base of the scrum out to Irwin that first altered the scoreboard.

Adam Gowing stepped up  to the kicking tee and slotted the ball over to make the score an healthy 7 nil to the Orchard men.

After the kick off a messy line-out saw Armagh down in the Cooke 22, but not intimidated by this prospect Armagh worked hard and gained valuable yards back up the field. A penalty against Cooke saw Gowing stand at the tee again and with his expert boot the scoreboard changed to 10 nil.

Armagh were on a run at this stage in the first half and some ill-discipline from Cooke allowed the runs to continue. The ball was again placed into Irwin’s hand and he ran up the line to allow Gowing a difficult kick. But it proved no problem and the Orchard men were 17 points with no reply.

Even with the slippy surface not allowing for the ease of play that both team’s would have craved, excellent handling and ball skills allowed Irwin to gain his hat-trick try. Again the boot of Gowing came good and the score totalled up to a healthy 24 nil.

The usually solid scrums and line-outs from Armagh continued throughout this match and have really become a trademark of the Armagh game. With this solidness up front it wasn’t long before the visiting supporters could cheer a fantastically worked try with Manu, Hughes and Wright all featuring heavily before the ball found Irwin for the bonus point try. Unfortunately, Gowing could not capitalise on this occasion, and the visitors were 29 clear.

After the restart a storming passage of play from Cooke saw the visitors back on their own 10m line, but the defence shown, showed that the Armagh game is mutli-faceted. An unfortunate knock to Jamie Cornett saw a reshuffle of sorts and Andrew Willis came on as replacement. Even with this changeover, the defence still held strong in the face of a sustained Cooke attack.

It was then that Cooke managed what they had waited so long to achieve. After a period of pressure and good recycling,  they pushed over the line. But a twist was to follow when the near perfect kick dipped and hit the cross bar to make the score 29 – 5 at half time.

The second half started with the weather beginning to deteriorate and no team taking advantage of the other’s handling errors in the wet. Cooke continued with their solid play but this time in defence rather than attack and only imaginative play from Armagh saw the score remain static.

A protracted period of play saw advantage pass between the two teams with neither able to capitalise at any one time. This lead frustrations to run high and an off the ball tackle on Willis saw the Cooke tight head prop being given the yellow card. Thankfully Willis was able to return to the play and continue his assault on the Cooke wing.

Their resolve intact, Armagh pushed and rucked their way ever closer to the opposition goal line. When the ball passed over the line and the myriad of bodies had been extracted it was l2nd generation Armagh player, James Johnston who was credited with the score. Gowing again found his form in the head on wind and duly converted to give Armagh 36 points to 5.

The linking play that seemed to have come into it’s own, saw a brilliant passage of passing between Joe Clarke, Hughes, Elliott and Gowing to breach the Cooke defence and gain much needed yards. And with time slipping away it was another joint effort in the ruck that saw Armagh use their strength to push over the line. This time the plaudits went to player/coach Andy Hughes. Gowing once again found the sweet spot on the ball and it flew over to make the final score 43 to 5.

Armagh play again on Saturday when they travel to Omagh. Although many supporters eyes will be on the upcoming match against Cill Dara in the All Ireland Junior Cup,  the management and coaching staff are taking one match at a time.

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