COLERAINE made a dramatic return to winning ways on Saturday, edging out visitors Cooke in a Kukri League clash.
With only two points in it Coleraine nerves were tested with a last kick penalty opportunity for visitors Cooke, but the ball was just short and Coleraine took the day with the scoreline standing at 16-14.
Coach Richard Beggs was delighted with the result. He said: “It was a hard game but we were more than happy to take the points today. The guys showed great determination and resolve, coming from behind and maintaining their composure.
“We made it difficult for ourselves with some of our decision making putting us under pressure. There were some great moments as well and overall we are pleased with the performance.
“We have no match next week and we will be working on some areas where we were weak today. It will also give some time for injured players to get back to match fitness before our next game away to Academy on 2 March.”
The match was played in dry, windy conditions, the pitch drying out but soft. Both sides came out strongly and within minutes the first points went to Coleraine.
After seven minutes Coleraine were attacking and Cooke were penalised as they scrambled to defend their lines. Alan Gourley was on kicking duty for Coleraine and he mastered the windy conditions from 25 metres to claim three points.
The visitors came back strongly, kicking for the corner and the forwards setting up outhalf Finlay to score under the posts. Elliott converted to make the score 3-7.
Gourley had another penalty attempt five minutes later but was just wide. He also made a great break from the restart, robbing the ball but losing it again seconds later in the tackle.
Just before the half hour Brian Cochrane seemed destined for the try line with an opportunistic kick through and chase but the whistle went and play was brought back to an earlier infringement. Cooke missed with the long range penalty kick, the ball drifting wide.
In the final ten minutes of the half Cooke had two further penalty attempts but Elliott saw the ball fall short in the first and drift wide in the second, just before the break.
Coleraine made a fantastic start to the second half. Cooke restarted and Alex Gourley gathered possession in Coleraine’s half.
Gourley sidestepped the opposition as he cut through the field and outsprinted the final defence to score just left of the post. Older brother Alan claimed the extras to put Coleraine in front.
Ten minutes into the half Coleraine again had a penalty attempt from the ten-metre line but the ball drifted just right of the posts.
For the next ten minutes Coleraine’s pack dominated proceedings, pressuring the Cooke defence and moving steadily towards the try line. Disaster struck as the backs zeroed in on the corner and a poorly timed pass was intercepted by Cooke’s Finlay.
He sprinted the length of the pitch, leaving Coleraine in his wake, to score under the posts. Elliott converted and Cooke took a 14-10 lead.
Both sides attacked but were unable to push home their advantage and it was with just over five minutes to go that the drama really intensified.
Firstly Alan Gourley stepped up and converted a penalty kick to bring Coleraine to within one point.
A minute later with Coleraine still on the attack Cooke gave away another penalty just inside their own half. Gourley struck well from the Cooke ten-metre line but watched the ball fall just short.
Three minutes later the pressure yielded another penalty and this time Gourley was on target with a closer kick, claiming three points and a two point advantage for the home side.
The drama continued with Cooke piling on the pressure from the restart and, to the dismay of the Coleraine contingent, the referee awarded yet another penalty, this time to Cooke, just inside the Coleraine ten-metre line.
Cooke’s replacement kicker, Logan, lined up the long kick straight in front of the posts and as the ball fell just short the full-time whistle blew and Coleraine celebrated victory, with a narrow but satisfying 16-14 scoreline.
The only match for Coleraine this weekend is the Seconds away to Ballymoney 2s in the Crawford Cup.
Ballymoney Seconds got the better of Coleraine in the league on Saturday, winning 17-11, and there will be a large travelling support cheering on Coleraine this week, hoping for a win in the cup.
Also on Saturday the Thirds travelled to Portadown and lost out 32-5.
Coleraine First XV: A Teacy, M Hunter, J Carey, D Ramage, G Neely, A Neely, J Cromie, S Douglas, P Roxborough, Alan Gourley, S Caithness, N Patterson, N Irwin, B Cochrane, Alex Gourley. Subs: J Christie, W Chestnut.