The clash between section 1 joint leaders Clogher Valley and Cooke lived up to every expectation in a bruising encounter at the Cran.
In a game which may determine the Ulster representative for the All Ireland round robin play-off, it was the County Tyrone side who claimed a narrow victory over their closest rivals for the second time this season.
The match, played on an extremely heavy pitch, commenced at a blistering pace with Valley’s large pack taking play immediately into the visitors 22. When Cooke conceded the first penalty of the game, the home side kicked for the corner. Clogher won the resultant line-out but a solid defence by Cooke saw the ball worked back into Clogher territory. On twelve minutes Valley were back in the Cooke 22 and when the visitors were penalised for using hands in a ruck out-half Holme kicked for goal but watched his attempt fall short. Ten minutes later the out-half had another attempt to open the scoring but again Cooke were reprieved when the penalty went wide.
Having absorbed pressure for most of the opening quarter the Cooke defence was finally breached with 22 minutes played. The physical Valley pack tied in a number of Cooke defenders with a driving maul before releasing the ball to bulky centre Falconer who crossed the line for Holme to convert.
Cooke’s misfortune was added to within minutes when influential fullback Cartmill had to leave the field injured. Valley continued to pressure the Cooke eight and with just under half an hour played had worked the ball into a position for out-half Holme to stretch the Tyrone side’s lead with a simple drop goal. Three minutes later it was Cooke out-half Murphy who opened the scoring for the Belfast side with a drop goal when Jewhurst provided quick ball at a line-out. Just before half time Holme restored Valley’s 10-point lead when Cooke second row Robinson received a yellow card for entering a ruck from the side. Murphy’s attempt to claim three points just before half time with a long- range penalty failed, leaving the score at the interval.
Clogher Valley 13 Cooke 3
Cooke started the second half in more determined fashion, putting Valley on the back foot for the first 10 minutes. The home side conceded three penalties in quick succession but all beyond kicking range for Cooke to reap immediate benefit. Eventually, after a series of energy sapping picking and driving, Cooke worked the play into Valley territory and when the home team were again penalised for preventing release, Murphy kicked a penalty to close the gap.
Three quarters way through the game Holme was wide of the mark with a penalty attempt when a Cooke player was adjudged not to have rolled away after a tackle. In fact there were no further scores during the game as both sides pummelled each other in an attempt to gain ground. The physical nature of the game was reflected with 10 minutes remaining when Cooke hooker Cochrane received a yellow card for an off the ball incident.
The large crowd present witnessed a game of the highest standard where, on the day, it was the heavy but mobile Valley pack who had the edge. A consolation losing bonus point for Cooke may prove critical as the two sides complete the remaining four fixtures before the Section One winner is determined.
Full Time Score: Clougher Valley 13 Cooke 6