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On a fine March day at Donaldson Park, Banbridge II kicked off a Conference League game against an experimental Donaghadee side with some players returning to action after injury and a few regulars taking an opportunity for a week off in a crammed and hectic schedule this month. The latter few were replaced by young Second XV players who deserved the chance to show their stuff against a Senior club’s Second XV.
When in the eighth minute Donaghadee forced Banbridge to ease the pressure with a “22” drop-out, a poorly directed drop kick found an eager Stuart Hutchinson out on his team’s right. A glance upfield showed an almost empty corridor between touch and the five-metre line, and Hutchy was gone up that narrow corridor for a fine opening try.

Minutes later came a second. When the ball just made it into touch from a despairing Banbridge hack, Paul Blewitt, showing how eager he was after a long injury lay-off, grabbed it and threw it in quickly. In this particular week everyone present knows the rule about such tactics, but he did use the same ball and no one else had touched it. The Dee forwards acted in unison and presented prop forward Chris Schofield with a chance up the touchline. Naturally he took it and crossed far out and then was careful enough to close in towards the posts giving Richard Millar an easy kick for a 12-0 Donaghadee lead.
A quiet period followed and it was Donaghadee who relaxed just a little too much. The Banbridge players attacked in numbers and scored a well-deserved try and conversion to cheer their spirits during the break.
In the second period Donaghadee allowed their game to become more expansive. Stevie Garrett was playing well at No. 9 and Blewitt was relishing his return by distributing the ball quickly and with sufficient variety to keep the Banbridge defence honest. When the threequarters got the ball early to Rory Garnham he instantly showed that the signs of restored confidence he showed the previous Saturday were real. His blistering pace took him the forty metres to the first tackle at Banbridge’s “22”. It was a decent enough tackle, but Garnham switched from pace to strength and simply wrestled his way through it and stormed on for an exhilarating try for Donaghadee and a 17-7 scoreline.
Five minutes later it was 27-7 for Donaghadee. First, Blewitt presented his forwards with a diagonal ball to chase they were all there and eager, and almost immediately the forwards crashed over as a unit for another try. Great work by the experimental Dee pack as collectively they crossed the Banbridge line twice in as many minutes and Donaghadee now had a big advantage.
Garnham and his full back Billy Allen had a rattle at showing how good Donaghadee’s backs can be, but their blitzkrieg was snuffed out just short. This was only the briefest respite as Donaghadee came back again even harder and got the reward of another try and what turned out to the winning score of 32-7.
All things considered this was an excellent performance from a slightly changed Donaghadee XV. After the big hiccup last week at Coleraine, the team is now back on track for their remaining Qualifying League games, buoyed up by the news coming in from Carrickfergus where the home side had beaten the Dee’s close League rivals Ballyclare 24-11 – and this one week before the vital Ballyclare v. Donaghadee encounter.
Donaghadee team: Billy Allen, Chris McGivern, Andrew Findlater, Chris Beattie, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Stevie Garrett: Chris Good (c), Phil McGaughey, Chris Schofield, David Thompson, Kyle Morrow, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Hamilton and Richard Millar.


Last Saturday was a good day for Donaghadee R.F.C. with an excellent victory for the club’s Second XV as well. This young side, combined with a couple of elder statesmen at the helm, including captain for the day Gareth Gordon, continues to develop a brand of free flowing, try scoring rugby.
However it was Lisburn who struck first, catching the young side napping. The home side showed their character by responding immediately with a try from full back Adam Rodgers. A tight but enterprising first half finished 20 – 10 in favour of the home side.
The Lisburn side started the second half well, putting the home team under pressure for the first ten minutes, although they could not add to their score.
However the points kept coming from the Dee when the opportunity arose with Andrew Cash scoring another brace of tries to go with his hat-trick last time out. The game became a one sided affair with the away team’s frustration resulting in a sin binning in the second half that reduced the Lisburn pack’s power and effectively ended the match as a contest.
Donaghadee’s try scorers were Adam Rodgers, Bobby Harpur, Andrew Cash (2), Colin Smith, Gareth Gordon and Paul Hamilton. Conversions: Mark Cooper

Donaghadee Seconds team: Adam Rodgers, Anthony Bunting Jnr., Colin Smith, Bobby Harpur, Andrew Cash: Mark Cooper, Nick Lord; Garth Bennett, Gareth Gordon, Adam Torrens, Phil Collins, Mark Mitchell, Paul Ferguson, Connor Adgey, Paul Hamilton,
New arrival

A possible new recruit for the club arrived last week in the form of Finley Monson, the 10-lb son of Sara and last year’s club captain Andy. The club would like to send them their best wishes.

This Saturday
As time of writing (Tuesday 22 March) Donaghadee’s First XV is scheduled to face Ballyclare at The Cloughan, Doagh Road on 26 March; Donaghadee’s Seconds have no game and Donaghadee Thirds are due to play Civil Service 2 at Donaldson Park.

For Your Diary
DRFC’s hard-worked Match Secretary Francis Porter is trying frantically to squeeze a quart into a pint pot with the club’s league-chasing First XV needing to complete five postponed, but crucial, games against Ballyclare (mentioned above), Omagh, BHSFP and two against close rivals CIYMS. The first of these in April is BHSFP at home on 3rd, followed on the Tuesday with CIYMS at Donaldson Park under floodlights on the 6th. On Sat 9th April they go to Omagh and then play the away game at Belmont against CIYMS (date still to be arranged).
Then on 16th April will be the celebration game against a former International XV for the 125th Anniversary of Donaghadee Rugby Football Club. There will be a nominal entrance charge for this game, and all monies raised at Donaldson Park will be donated to the IRFU Charitable Trust. Former Ireland great, Mick Quinn, is working closely with John Blewitt and the club to make this a great rugby day. It will conclude with a grand dinner in the evening with some invited guest speakers. By the way, there may still be a few places available at this if you are interested. See Hans Arthur at Grace Neill’s about it. Team selections and other details will be posted a little closer to the date.
On 12th May there will be the club’s AGM, (all nominations for Council posts and team captains should be submitted this week to a Council member. To round off what has so far been an exceptional season there will be the club’s Annual Dinner on Friday 20th May.

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