IT was another dismal day for Coleraine on Saturday as Cooke took the honours in a hard fought league encounter.
The Belfast side came to town with two wins under their belts and determined to make their mark on the league. Coleraine were in the lead 15-12 at the break but Cooke dominated the second half and came away the better of a final scoreline of 22-43.
Coleraine coach Richard Kernohan was not very happy with the result. Speaking on Monday he said: “We were very disappointed with the result on Saturday.
“For the first 40 minutes we were strong and making a good match of it. In the second half we seemed to implode.
“I am not sure exactly what went on and we will be looking closely at things during training this week. We seemed to lose our positive attitude in the second half and we had a few discipline issues as well.
“This week we go to Dromore and that is never an easy fixture. We will look at our game plan this week but, with a few injuries to contend with, we could see some changes to the starting line-up.
“Luckily we have some depth in the squad this year and there is still a lot of competition for places. In any event we will be looking for a strong positive performance to get us back on track for the league.”
Playing on a mild and sunny afternoon, Coleraine started strongly, bringing the attack to the visitors. Within ten minutes David Andrews was on target with a finely struck penalty from 25 metres to claim the first points of the day.
Five minutes later sustained pressure saw Coleraine camped on the Cooke try line. After several phases, with the forwards creating massive pressure, the ball was fed along the backs and Brian Cochrane gathered the final pass at speed, sprinting past the defence to score. The conversion drifted just wide.
With 20 minutes on the clock the visitors made their first score. Working from a ten metre throw in, the Cooke forwards kept possession and forced their way over for the try. The conversion hit the post and the score remained 8-5.
Within five minutes Coleraine were afforded another opportunity as Cooke lost a player to a yellow card. The home pack forced their way over the line but the try was denied as the ball was held up by the Cooke defence.
The Bannsiders kept up the pressure, the pack attacking deep into the Cooke 22. As the ball came to the backline Stuart Simpson made a clever break, drawing the defence before popping the ball to Nial Irwin for another fine try. Andrews secured the conversion.
As the half came to an end, Cooke, back to 15 men, made a determined attack on the Coleraine lines. The move ended when Cooke’s fullback cut through the Coleraine defence and scored under the posts. The simple conversion brought the half time score to 15-12.
The second half started with a bang, straight from the kick off, as Cooke stormed the Coleraine defence and a break just inside the Coleraine half saw them sprint to the line and score under the posts. The conversion was on target.
The pressure continued and with eight minutes gone Cooke scored again. Despite a strong defensive effort from the home side, the visitors scored again, under the posts, and the conversion followed.
Five minutes later the tally increased as Cooke used a solid attacking platform to pick up three more points from a well taken drop goal.
With fifteen minutes gone Coleraine were put on the back foot again as David Ferguson was shown the yellow card after a badly timed tackle caught a Cooke player in the air as he gathered the restart ball. As Coleraine struggled to keep in touch Cooke seized their opportunity and ran in a try in the corner, followed by a successful conversion.
There were a number of changes for Coleraine as George and Bogle were replaced by Jefferson and Gourley. Ferguson rejoined the fray but within a few minutes Coleraine again went down a man as Irwin left the field with a leg injury.
Again Cooke pounced and as Coleraine tried to run out of their own 22, they lost possession and Cooke needed no invitation as they ran in another try under the posts. The conversion was on target.
Coleraine came to life in the last ten minutes and after a number of phases deep in the Cooke 22, they forced across the line, Ferguson claiming the honours and five points. Andrews made sure of the conversion.
In a scrappy final phase tempers were noticeably frayed. After an incident involving players from both sides, Coleraine’s Andrews and scrum half Paul Roxborough were both yellow carded and within a minute the final whistle was blown, the final score 22-43.
The result means that Coleraine have only had one win and four points from three league games, but with a long season ahead they will now be looking to get back into winning ways on Saturday as they travel to Co Down and another tough match against Dromore.
There was no luck for other teams on Saturday. The Seconds lost out 38-0 at Ballynahinch and the Fourths lost 31-12 at Omagh.