Cookstown Rugby: Backs lead the way: I XV 35 v Cavan Rugby 0

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Following a free weekend, Cookstown RFC resumed its Minor League campaign with a tough home match against a dogged Cavan side. Any rumours that Cavan RFC did not travel well were soon dispelled when their bus rolled up to the Mid Ulster Sports Arena two hours before kick off and full of quality rugby players.
Cookstown went into the game without team captain Ryan Eastwood who was recovering from a leg injury; this saw Vice Captain Liam Currie take over captaincy duties for the day. Shortly before kickoff the team were dealt another blow when second rower Colin Workman sustained an injury in the warm up. However such is the strength in depth of this squad that an able replacement was plucked from the bench and a reshuffle saw versatile flanker Martin Devlin moving into the row.
The game kicked off (20 minutes later than billed) with Cookstown playing into a stiff breeze. Early attacking play from Cavan required two relieving kicks from outhalf Ciaran Currie who used his boot to good affect all day despite having to cope with several late challenges

With Cavan bringing their physicality to the break down, Cookstown struggled to secure clean ball for their backs. The first score of the day came from inside centre Ronan Campbell. Having secured clean ball at the ruck, the Cavan Hooker took his time to clear the ball, this allowed the big Ardboe man to close down his opposite number and intercept the pass. Ronan then showed a great turn of pace to beat several defenders and dot down under the posts. Ciaran Currie the Cookstown outhalf successfully converted to give Cookstown a 7 – 0 lead.
From the restart Cookstown went on the attack again. Following three quick phases from the forwards, the ball was flashed to the backs where Ronan Campbell hit a straight line and burst through three tackles to touch down under the posts once more. Ciaran Currie converted to double Cookstown’s advantage.
The game flowed from end to end. The Cookstown forwards failed to control the restart. This gifted a lineout to Cavan who were able to apply pressure to the Cookstown line. Off-side at a ruck saw Cookstown penalised, however Cavan failed to capitalise by missing a kick at the posts. The resultant 22 drop out was sent deep into the Cavan half were a knock on lead to a scrum. A great pick and go from the fiery JP Reah started a great move along the Cookstown back line but unfortunately a wayward pass resulted a scrum award to Cavan. Barry Loughran.
Into the second quarter and another devastating run from Ronan Campbell saw Cookstown move deep into the Cavan 22. An unselfish offload saw full back Barry Loughran score close to the posts. Try converted by Ciaran Currie.
This concluded the scoring for the first half as the game fell into a scrappy affair. Despite the dominance of Adam Stinson in the lineout, Cookstown were unable to secure clean ball for their backs. A lenient attitude towards hands in the ruck from the referee saw Cookstown ball continually slowed. This allowed Cavan to get back into the game and frustrate the Cookstown forwards who started to give away silly penalties. The half ended with Cookstown defending their line against a series of Cavan lineout drives. Fortunately a combination of fine counter mauling and poor handling ensured that Cavan finished the half scoreless.
At half time strong words from team captain Ryan Eastwood and Manager Mark Brown made the team aware that they were beating themselves with their ill discipline. Acting captain Liam Currie challenged the boys to score again and keep a clean sheet!
A substitution saw Kildress man John ‘Rambo’ McGurk come on for his neighbour Barry Loughran who despite his Championship Final the next day, showed great commitment to the team.
The second half began some fine handling between the Cookstown backs and forwards. Unfortunately some ill discipline at the breakdown saw Cookstown concede possession. Cavan elected to kick to touch and shortened their lineout. A good steal from Second rower Adam Stinson, who had been lording the lineouts all day, saw the ball go wide to outhalf Ciaran Currie who sent debutant flanker Thommo through the heart of the Cavan Defence and go in for a well worked try. Ciaran Currie kicked the conversion which gave Cookstown a 28 nil lead ten minutes into the second half.
Again indiscipline raised its ugly head and Cookstown were penalised in their 22. Fortunately Cavan missed the attempt at the posts. Another good steal at the lineout by Adam Stinson resulted in Cookstown penetrating deep in to the Cavan 22. Unfortunately some poor handling resulted in a missed opportunity for another try.
With 20 minutes of the game remaining Cookstown introduced some fresh legs. The dashing Daryl Donaghy left the fray and in came the Hip Dave Weir at scrum half.
The last 15 minutes saw Cookstown absorb a lot of pressure from Cavan who clearly adopted a never say die attitude and benefitted from more Cookstown ill discipline. Ciaran Currie decided to turn the tables and dish out some of his own medicine to the Cavan half backs with a late hit. Cookstown were able to resist the resultant pressure on their line. Shortly after, JP Reah’s self control finally crumbled when a few loose fists connected with his face. Somehow the referee adjudged that JP was the only one to throw a punch when he was circled by four opposition players taking cheap shots. As a result Cookstown were reduced to 14 players.
An injury to backrower Thommo saw Stewartstown man Kevin Park take to the field, Despite the deficit in personnel, Cookstown regained some composure and launched an attack on the Cavan line. Some fine passing created space for a fine chip to go through for Denver Nugent to collect and score close to the uprights. Try converted.
The game finished with Cookstown on the back foot, fantastic determination saw the forwards keep Cavan off the score board. Several penalties close the Cookstown line saw the pack repel a series of driving mauls. Final Score Cookstown 35 Cavan 0.
This was a patchy display from Cookstown, when the lads put their heads down and concentrated on rugby the opposition were no match. However the team allowed themselves to be dragged into a scrappy affair which resulted in them losing their focus and allow for Cavan to remain in the game. Team Captain Ryan Eastwood commented that whilst there were a few positives, the penalty count was unacceptable.
Man of the match went to inside centre Ronan Campbell who no doubt made a memorable impact on his return to rugby following his foray into the sordid world of triathlon.
The club would like to thank Anne Douglas, Senior Manager at Cavanagh Kelly Accountants for presenting team captain Ryan Eastwood with a set of kit bags sponsored by the firm.
The club would also like to thank Mulligans Bar for the post game hospitality and the lovely ladies at Brown Sugar for providing the post match food.

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