Cooke Rugby Club Notes: I XV 28 v Ballymena II XV 13

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Match Report, 10 September – Conference League, Cooke v Ballymena II
Firsts pass Conference League encounter with flying colours

Cooke showed their intentions to challenge for Qualifying League One honours during a confident performance against Ballymena IIs. The game started with a series of bruising exchanges as both packs sought to make their presence felt. The first 10 minutes of the game saw play take place largely between the 10 metre lines with neither side prepared to concede territory.

The stalemate was however broken after 10 minutes. A Cooke penalty in the middle of the park was taken quickly by scrumhalf Bennett who found centre Pyper in support. The pace of the complex move that followed left the Ballymena defence flat-footed and resulted in the try of the match. Out-half McLaughlin looped behind Pyper shifting the ball to blind side winger Armstrong and then full-back Cartmill who drew defenders before releasing left winger Doherty to sprint 30metres to the line. McLaughlin converted.

Ballymena responded aggressively with the Cooke forwards surrendering ground on two occasions following foolish ‘back chat’ to the referee. When Cooke committed another offence for offside, the Ballymena winger was now well in range of the posts and converted a simple penalty. Ten minutes later the same player was off target with a further penalty kick.

With half an hour played Cooke were again exerting pressure. Following some great continuity play by the pack, No. 8 McVicker found a narrow gap, forcing over the line close to the corner flag. McLaughlin’s difficult conversion rebounded off the upright. As the half time whistle beckoned Cooke launched a driving maul some 15 metres out from the Ballymena line when flanker Cochrane broke away to touch down close to the posts. McLaughlin’s easy conversion brought the halftime score to Cooke 19 Ballymena II 3

The second half required some reshuffling within the Cooke ranks when scrumhalf Bennett retired injured. Fullback Cartmill moved to pivot while Murphy came off the bench to cover at 15. Sadly, it was more indiscipline that allowed Ballymena back into the game. Following a penalty Cooke were marched back a further 10 metres for unnecessary comments to the referee. Ballymena gratefully kicked to the corner and a well-executed catch and drive produced a second try for the visitors. The Ballymena kicker was again off target.

Cooke out-half McLaughlin almost extended the home team lead with a drop goal that brushed the wrong side of the posts. However, the same player bore the wrath of the referee shortly afterwards and was unfortunate to pick up a yellow card for persistent infringements by the Cooke back-line. Two more yellows were issued when Cooke second row Dawson and the Ballymena tight-head exchanged blows.

Things then deteriorated in contrast to the previous high standards of play witnessed from both sides. Murphy edged Cooke further ahead with a penalty 20 minutes into the half. Then, when Ballymena were awarded a penalty close to the Cooke line, the ball was passed to their unmarked right wing, allowing an easy try. The conversion rebounded off the post.

The final 10 minutes was a lack lustre affair with McLaughlin adding two more penalties to conclude matters with a final score of Cooke 28 Ballymena IIs 13
Today’s game was a greater challenge for the firsts against a bigger and much more experienced side than encountered last week. Physically the forwards matched up well with second row Dawson and back row Robinson, McVicker and Cochrane making hard yards. Set piece play was good with Quigley again connecting cleanly with Frazer’s line-out throws.

On the negative side, the number of foolish penalties conceded must be addressed

President’s Man of the Match (despite witnessing ‘that advice’ to the referee) Stephen Robinson

The 3rd XV got their season off to a winning start with a 50-15 home win against Portadown 4th XV.

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