NOTESSSA Donaghadee RFC I XV 22 v Dromore RFC I XV 24

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Donaghadee’s Qualifying One status hangs by a thread after the bonus point loss to Dromore at Donaldson Park yesterday. In perfect conditions Dromore established early dominance in the match utilising their strong driving and off-loading game which was to be a major feature of the game throughout. After a line out close to the Dee line the well drilled Dromore pack drove over to touch down with barely five minutes played but failed to add the extras. Worse was to follow soon after for the home side when some weak defence in midfield allowed the Barban Hill men to progress to the Dee line before releasing their backs to score a converted try and stretch their lead to 12-0 midway through the first- half.
After taking stock of their poor start Donaghadee began to exert some pressure on their opponents with Chris Good, Paul Hamilton and Chris Hamilton to the fore in the rucks and mauls driving towards the line before Alastair Lockhart released his backs for Adam Alexander to power through and pass to the supporting Mark Cooper who squeezed at the corner. The difficult conversion was missed. Unfortunately this good work was undone when a combination of clever off-loading and Dee infringements led to lineout which was secured by the Dromore pack who drove over to score an unconverted try and leave the half-time score 17-5 to the away side.
Although disappointed with the outcome of the first half large Donaghadee crowd were confident that the side could compete well in the second half given that they had the advantage of the hill, wind and sun. The early stages of the second period bore this out and Dee pressure led to a kickable penalty which was converted by Paul Blewitt. Once again, however, lack of concentration in defence allowed Dromore to come back almost immediately and score their bonus point try – this time adding the extras.
With time running out Player-Coach Paul McKenzie encouraged the Dee to throw the ball around which had an unsettling effect on the previously unflappable Dromore team and the home side soon got their reward when Chris Hamilton burrowed over after a phase of play involving all fifteen players on the Dee side – Cooper adding the conversion. This meant the Dee were playing with a little more confidence and the now open nature of the game let play ebb & flow before Paul Hamilton capped a barnstorming performance in the unfamiliar lock position when he drove over to score under the posts – Cooper again adding the extras.
With the referee now playing injury time and Donaghadee only two points behind Dromore re-started and the ball was secured by the Dee pack before Chris Hamilton and Rhys Thompson drove forward and eventually Lockhart released Cooper who inter passed with Ryan Irvine. Irvine looked as if he had stepped his opposite number but the latter brought him down with a last gasp tackle. Irvine was able to feed the still supporting Cooper but he too eventually fell victim to Dromore’s scramble defence and the referee signalled a scrum before blowing up for no side and the Dromore support on the sideline breathed a huge sigh of relief.
A power packed display in second half from Good, Thompson, Gareth Gordon & the two Hamiltons in the pack and inventive & skilful forays from the backs just fell short on this occasion and the disappointment of this tight-knit squad was palpable on the final whistle.
Ultimately this will be seen as disappointing result but the grit and determination shown by the Dee side will serve them well in the remainder of the season (including the Powerade Towns Cup sem-final at Ballynahinch next week). Donaghadee are now certain to finish 9th in Q1 and, with Ards almost certain to lose their AIL status, the Dee will be relying on either Instonians or Clogher Valley taking Ards place in the AIL in order to survive – no easy task considering the form of Dundalk this season and the fact that even if either of the Ulster sides were to prevail in the Round Robin they still have to play-off against the third from bottom in AIL 2B.
On Thursday evening last , Donaghadee 3rd Xv welcomed their neighbouring Bangor counterparts , The Gryphons, to Donaldson Park. A combination of interest in local derby rugby and fair weather attracted both travelling and home support which was greatly appreciated by both teams.
Earlier in the season, Andy Monson’s 3rd XV suffered a defeat on the Gryphon’s home turf at Uprichard Park. During the first half the Dee men found themselves playing “up the hill”. In recent games, the Dee have struggled to settle themselves into a game which has resulted in the opposition taking early points creating an upward struggle to reclaim their place in the game. However, from the kick off the Dee immediately exerted great defensive pressure on the Gryphons, with some defence piercing attacking play. The Dee men welcomed back student Stuart “Terry Tate” Robinson who raised a few eyebrows with his massive tackles which caused a few gasps on the sidelines. Stuart’s high work rate paid off as he broke through the Bangor defence to score the first try of the game. Unfortunately Monson failed to convert due to team manager Jonny Ballagh failing to provide him with the correct colour of kicking tee. During the main course of play, the game was relatively evenly contested with the two teams eyeing up gaps in each other’s defence. Some breakaway Bangor runs were halted by try saving tackles from Gowdy, Eager, and Dee debutant Andy Jarvis. The first half came to an end with the Dee men 5-0 up.
Having switched ends for the 2nd half, the Dee men were now playing “down the hill” and hungry for the win. The Dee men were able to run the ball through several phases and the forwards had learned to get the ball out to the backs allowing several impressive runs from Gowdy and Jarvis. Gowdy’s work rate paid off as he placed the ball over the line for the first try of the second half. Monson, supplied this time with the correct colour of tee, converted the try bringing the score line to 12-0. Following a series of scrums and line outs, Pete Stevenson spotted an opportunity to break through the Bangor defensive line to score. With Monson converting, this brought the scoreline to 19-0. With the Dee men starting to tire, a couple of missed tackles allowed Bangor to respond with a try that was subsequently converted bringing the scoreline to 19-7 with 15 mins to go. Fearful that the Dee men were becoming comfortable with their lead, the Dee side were addressed under the posts by Monson and Oswald Gordon who were clearly agitated by the soft try. With about 10 minutes to go, a turn over ball was well worked by a series of pick and go moves. With Monson seeing an opportunity to get the ball out to the backs, the ball was picked by Monson and spread out through the backs to Jarvis who put the ball over the line for a try bringing the score to 24-7. Despite having the correct tee, the angle proved too tight for Monson and the conversion was sent wide. With only minutes left of the half, the Dee men were awarded a penalty for a repeated Bangor infringement. In order to bring the game to an end, Monson elected to go for the posts. Successfully kicked, the game was brought to an end with the final score being 27-7 to Donaghadee.
The Club was delighted to host ten of the Regent House leavers at the Pre-Match Lunch prior to the 1st XV game last Saturday and, as they have demonstrated in the Schools Cup competitions this season, these young men have been a credit to both the school and the game and we hope all will continue to play rugby whether it be locally or further afield.
The 1st & 2nd XVs take a welcome break from league matches this Saturday when both take part in cup semi-finals. The 1st XV reprise their trip to Ballynahinch II at this stage of the Powerade Towns Cup last season when they travel to Ballymacarn Park. Last year Donaghadee came away with the spoils but the task will be even more difficult this time given that the Ballynahinch 1st XV have no game and so they will be able to fix their entire focus on attempting to reach Ravenhill. The 2nd XV welcome Randalstown II to Donaldson Park in the Semi-Final of the Forster Cup. The Co. Antrim have won Junior League 4 this season with the Dee currently in the runners-up position. Although Randalstown have narrowly come out on top in both previous meetings in the league this season the Dee will be hoping to reverse those outcomes on this occasion. At the time of going to press both of these games kick-off at 2:30pm. The 3rd XV continue their league progamme when they travel to Stormont to play Civil Service II – this game kicks-off at 12:30pm.

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