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Due to the late postponement of Donaghadee First XV’s Qualifying 2 League game against Ballyclare and with no Seconds’ game, the only fare on offer for Donaghadee rugby fans on the second consecutive fine March day at Donaldson Park was the Minor East clash of Donaghadee III and Civil Service Seconds. An encouragingly large crowd enjoyed the game, with players and referee Calvin Rowe (or Sid) all playing their parts to ensure a tight contest and good amounts of excitement and enthusiasm.

Although the teams were fairly evenly matched, it did not take long for all those present to realise that Service had a few very strong players in their ranks. After a few sallies back and forth by both sides, Service put together a well co-ordinated attack with about four separate phases and excellent control that took the ball almost the length of the pitch for the opening score through one of their prop forwards.
Donaghadee’s wing forward Stuart Robinson caught the eyes of many spectators with his non-stop chasing and destroying plus a few penetrating runs, but the team’s hard work could not quite break the Service defence for the sought-after try. However, they did manage to reduce the arrears shortly afterwards with a Nick Lord penalty goal for 7-3, but what they really needed was to cross their opponents’ line.
The Dee men seemed to be well aware and capable of this, and stoked up the fires. A multiple tackle by Donaghadee broke up to disclose winger Anthony Bunting unable to stand up. After an examination by team physio Sarah McAllister he was taken to the clubhouse with a badly sprained ankle. Mark Mitchell then came on as substitute, taking his place among the forwards with the brother Andrew going to the wing with John Campbell beside him in the centre of the backline. As the half-time break loomed it was all Donaghadee with a few penalties given away by over-zealous Service defenders. Only one of these was kickable, but sadly for the hosts, Lord’s effort drifted just wide.
The Civil Service lads clearly had a stirring team talk at the break because when they resumed they exerted some relentless pressure. In similar fashion to their successful onslaught in the first half they forced Donaghadee back and back until they ground over beside the goal-posts through which their kicker put the conversion for a daunting 14-3 lead. Almost immediately Donaghadee very nearly came back with a try. This was something of an individual effort by the impressive Robinson who made great ground, kicked ahead and was beaten to the touch only by a fraction.
It appeared that the ever-improving Service team had been stung by this impertinence when they opened an attack almost from their own line and interpassed their way right to the Donaghadee line for what must have been a very satisfying score for them right on full time. They did miss the extra two-point gloss, but must have been well pleased by their 19-3 victory.
The home spectators enjoyed the game and, although the scoreline might suggest otherwise, it really was an absorbing contest. Pete McQuillan and his guys are to be congratulated for their achievement in putting together a squad of players who are a credit to their club. They have a useful mix of do-or-die youth and some wise council from more experienced players. Without all these stalwarts the Second XV would be the poorer, and everyone reading this knows that the latter team’s successes are an essential support for the club’s First XV in this big season. All should be proud of what they are doing, and already thinking about how their club’s over-all playing strength can improve for the 2011-2012 season.
Donaghadee team: Marcus Gibson, Gavin Wallace (c), Ryan Irvine, Andrew Mitchell,¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ Anthony Bunting Jnr; Steven Garrett, Nick Lord: Ricky Gullen, Jason Steele, Mark Poole, Brian McCracken, Andy Ritchie, John Campbell, Stuart Robinson and Phil Weston. Subs: Mark Mitchell, Simon Woods and Vic Vine-Thorpe.
This Saturday
At time of writing (Tuesday 29 March) Donaghadee’s First XV is scheduled to face BHSFP on Sat 2nd April (N.B. not 3rd April as printed on Fixture Card) and the Seconds play Coleraine – both at Donaldson Park at 2.30pm.
For Your Diary
With four more crucial re-arranged 1st XV league games to be played before 23rd April the Donaghadee club’s Match Secretary Francis Porter has a busy time ahead. But for the moment, for your diary nothing is completely certain. Dates, times and even venues may change. Do not go by what might be in your fixture book. First XV games against CIYMS (H) and Omagh (A) are arranged for Tuesday 5th (evening) and Saturday 9th April respectively.

125th Celebration Day
One fixture that is most unlikely to change is the game on 16th April. This is the celebration game against a former International XV for the 125th Anniversary of Donaghadee Rugby Football Club’s foundation. 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. After what should be an interesting game and the subsequent crack there will be the grand dinner in the evening with a number of celebrity guests and some invited speakers. This is already going to be a huge do, but apparently there may still be one or two places available at this if you are interested. See Hans Arthur at Grace Neill’s about it. Any further details will be posted a little closer to the date.
Important Annual Events
On Thursday 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 Annual Club Dinner on Friday 20th May.

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