This week it was the turn of Ards to visit Rugby Avenue to play out the final round of the Cup but unable to field an Under-13 team, they arrived with two strong Under-15s and Under-17s teams hopeful of a double over Coleraine.
Instead they had to leave with no points and a long journey ahead of them. Both Coleraine and Ards were frustrated by the absence of a Branch referee to oficiate the Under-15s game leaving both squads to agree to referee one half each. Coleraine took the game with a 17 points to nil victory.
With both games played side by side on Coleraine’s least favourable pitches due to other pitches being rested because of recent poor weather and game-time, supporters were able to take in both fixtures simultaneously in what turned out to be two tough and entertaining games of rugby.
U17s Coleraine 15 Ards 10
Bouncing back from a disappointing performance last week in the second round of the competition against Enniskillen, which put them out of contention for the cup, Coleraine’s U17s returned to winning ways against a strong Ards team with a win at home in the final game of their group, leaving themselves a deserved second place and a crack at the Shield instead.
Despite playing with a number of key players missing through injury and other commitments, Coleraine served up what Coaches described as being their best performance of the season.
Coleraine started well but failed to capitalise on early territory and possession and fell behind to an Ards penalty on the 15 minute mark. Coleraine responded well and after pressing Ards with several phases, centre Alister Irwin, who was splendid throughout the game, bulled his way over the visitor’s line after good work by the pack.
With prop Ruairdh Sweeney throwing impeccably at the line out to catchers Reece Ramage and Callum McAleese (C), Coleraine’s dominated the set piece. Coleraine looked to be in the ascendancy but, leaked a try to Ards on the half time whistle giving their opponents a 10-5 points lead.
From the re-start Coleraine took the game to Ards and after 10 minutes a flowing back line move saw full back Stephen Douglas sprint away from the cover defence to score in the corner to level the score. The half back pairing of Stephen Irwin and James Millen despite this being their first time together showed some touches of class while centre Alistair Irwin was almost like an extra back row man.
Wingers Jamie McCraken and Joseph Lundy fielded high ball to shut down any Ards attempts at territory. Coleraine continued to dominate the set pieces, the scrum in particular, with epic performances from front row men Ruaridh Sweeney, Michael McLaughlin and Cillian Butler who stood up to their larger Ard’s counter.
Second row pairing Reece Ramage and Dylan Neeland ensured the shove was their in abundance while the back row of Ben Brown and open side Callum McAleese (C) were nothing short of magnificent but it was No 8 Ryan Purdy who pulled the win out of the bag towards the end when both sides were almost out on their feet. Purdy capped an overall great performance when he received ball from centre Chrissy Boreland and set off on a blistering sprint close to the touchline leaving a trailing Ards defence as he crossed the line to give them the deserved lead which they managed to protect until the final blow minutes later.