Coleraine had to pull out all the stops to come away with an important win in the local derby with the University of Ulster on Saturday.
The town side were shocked in the first quarter as the students romped away to a 15-0 lead. It was 25 minutes before the town started to come back but by the end of the game they had secured an 18-23 advantage.
The University had targeted this week’s match as a must win but in the end the town did enough to take and retain the lead at the final whistle. The result maintains Coleraine’s mid-table position and the Uni side claimed a losing bonus point.
This Saturday Coleraine make the long journey to Bangor and what is going to be a tough ask against the team sitting in third place in the league. Injuries are still a concern for coach Richard Beggs and his team and a close eye will fall on the squad during training this week, as selection decisions are made.
Having said that, such is the tight nature of the league this season that there is little between the teams when they are on their day, and the Bannsiders will be aiming for an upset and another winning performance.
At the University of Ulster’s Coleraine grounds at the weekend, the students showed their determination to take control from the off. Within five minutes hooker Dave Tunner went over the line for an unconverted try. 5-0
Five minutes later Uni flanker Ollie Millar showed great strength as he forced his way over the line. Rob Haldane slotted the ball between the posts for the extras. 12-0
The students kept up the pressure and within a further ten minutes Haldane had another three points from a penalty yielded in the face of a concerted attack. 15-0
Coleraine started to gain some shape and a series of attacks saw Bokkie Carstens claim three from a penalty, barely 25 metres from the posts, for an infringement in the Uni defence. 15-3
It was the same again minutes later as the pressure on the Uni lines saw them give away another penalty. Carstens was on target again. 15-6
Undeterred, the students regained the initiative and another penalty was awarded. Haldane was on target from 30 metres. 18-6
The Uni had another long range penalty attempt, from a metre inside their own half, but it fell just short of the posts.
As the half drew to a close Coleraine were camped on the Uni five-metre line. A series of scrums saw the Town get ever closer and it fell to Stephen Douglas to peel away from the back of the scrum and force a path through the defence to score. Carstens was on target for the extras bringing the half-time score to 18-13
In the second period Coleraine were on the offensive from the kick-off, DD Andrews celebrating his return to action by leading the attack in explosive style. The move resulted in a penalty opportunity but Carstens was just wide.
Fifteen minutes into the half Coleraine attacked deep into the Uni 22. An infringement in defence saw a Uni player yellow carded and Carstens was on target with the penalty. 18-16
Coleraine kept the pressure on but the Uni defence was resolute. Both sides had good attacking opportunities although neither side could deliver with the final move.
With minutes left on the clock Coleraine made a decisive move. They were in the Uni 22 again and a flowing move across the backline saw the ball come to a charging Andrew Barr on the wing. He sidestepped the defence as he cut through to score and Carstens did the honours with the conversion. 18-23
In the remaining minutes both sides sought to gain an advantage but at the final whistle Coleraine remained in front, claiming the points and the Uni secured a losing bonus point.
This week Coleraine travel to Bangor in the league.
In other games the results were Ballynahinch Thirds 64-0 Coleraine Seconds and Coleraine Thirds 22-15 Portadown Fourths.
Coleraine First XV: S Best, R Smyth, M Hunter, K Greenlaw, D Ramage, A Neely, B Mullan, S Douglas, B Carstens, M Poskitt, D Andrews, A Chambers, A Barr, S Moffatt, B Cochrane. Subs: R Gibson, S Evans.