Last Saturday saw yet more success for Coleraine Rugby Club’s evolving Youth Section when a talented U15s side grabbed all the headlines with a tough win over a decent Armagh outfit to book themselves a place in the final of the League Play-Offs scheduled for a fortnight’s time.
On a day when the wet weather almost threw a wet stick in the spokes of such a key fixture, it was the Clubs durable Prunty pitch that held up while the U13s battled in much stickier conditions down on Pitch 3 against a much stronger and more talented Armagh counter.
Whilst the weather meant that a frustrated U17s were forced to stay at home when their friendly against Ballymena was cancelled, the U19s were on the road to Letterkenny to take on Innishowen in a return league fixture which ended successfully in a great win for the visitors.
U15s Coleraine 33 Armagh 17
It was going to be a day for the longer stud but neither Coleraine nor Armagh were going to let conditions spoil the pace and performance from two evenly matched sides who both brought determination and passion to the table in abundance.
From the off Armagh secured early possession allowing them an opportunity to unleash a tall centre who broke Coleraine’s first line of defence and out paced the cover to plant the ball under the host posts. With a successful conversion, Armagh might have thought they were in for an easy ride but they had shown their hand. The talented centre attracted the attention of his counter Bradley Barbour especially who quickly he knew the gates were closing.
Within minutes Coleraine replied to Armagh with a typically strong run from MOM centre Bradley Barbour who ran a 30 yard barnstormer through a stunned Armagh defence to score wide out. The subsequent conversion was narrowly missed, but both sides had drawn blood and now it was down to who wanted ball and a place in the final most. To the spectator there wasn’t much between the two sides although Coleraine failed to capitalize on a number of visits to Armagh’s line and were excellent in set pieces, particularly the lineout. With half time looming, Armagh eventually gained possession and managed to win a penalty from Coleraine for offside in the ruck. A fine kick increased Armagh’s lead to 10 -5 which they managed to hold until the whistle.
In the half time huddle when a bit of the inevitable hairdryer treatment subsided, a freshly spirited Coleraine re-took the field for the second half. Within ten minutes an excellent backline move saw a gap appear for the leggy Bradley Barber, to take full advantage and score yet again from 30 yds out. The try was converted by full back Shea Eastwood, to put Coleraine in a much deserved lead for the first time but Armagh were not going to lie down as they took full advantage of a lapse in Coleraine’s concentration by intercepting a loose Coleraine pass allowing a pacy winger to round the cover defence and regain the lead with a score under the posts. Try converted. Game on.
Led by some great captaincy through George Magee, Coleraine selected a higher gear, packed down and immediately replied with another converted try to wrestle the score back in their favour19-17. Coleraine’s front row of tight head Timmy Lloyd, hooker Leon Inch and loosehead Niall Hunter were immense in the scrums with an industrious Thomas Moore at openside flanker. A busy scrum half Zac McFarland chased down the breakdown and maintained quick ball from the base of the ruck to link well with his reliable half back partner Paddy Kane who kept the backline moving throughout with some intelligent play selection.
Spurred on by a large touchline support, the final ten minutes of this great game was dominated by the home side which saw them score two more trys. First from centre James Breslin who broke two tackles in midfield before sprinting over and who else to finish off a well deserved Coleraine victory but that man again Bradley Barbour who ran all of 60 m leaving a a vapour trail of Armagh backs in his wake to score near the touchline. It was left for kicker Shea Eastwood to place the cherry on the icing on the cake with a superb conversion to take the final score to 33 – 17.
Whilst Coaches Glen McKnight and Dessie Smyth were delighted with the result, they know there is always room for improvement especially in the need to secure possession when close to the opposition line and to stamp out any whiteline fever that exists within this talented outfit. But for now the squad enjoys the knowledge that they are in line to match the U17s recent success in the league. Good luck boys from all Players Staff and Officials at CRFC.
U19s Innishowen 7 Coleraine 17
In what turned out to be great playing conditions for rugby on a firm playing surface despite the legendary Donegal rain, Coleraine made the long trip to Letterkenny seeking revenge over a talented Innishowen team who grabbed the spoils in the first leg of this league fixture. The opening exchanges saw a busy Coleraine pack quickly stamp their authority to set the scene for the rest of the game with forwards Thompson, Marks, Laverty and McClean looking particularly lively.
It was this good forward play which helped set up Coleraine’s first try as centre Balmer virtually sidestepped and jinked around the entire Donegal defence to dive over the tryline (rumours are that he is expecting a call from Strictly Come Dancing). Coleraine outhalf Fulton successfully converted to add to the early lead. With Letterkenny seeking a reply, they simply ran up against a stronger visiting pack until (Sonny-Boy) Dempster crashed over their try line to extend Coleraine’s lead just before half time.
It was Letterkenny who started the second half better and pressed the Coleraine defence well before getting themselves on to the score sheet with a converted try to keep them within reach of their visitors. This served to spur Coleraine on as they tightened up across all positions and the backline stepped up a gear.
The centre pairing of Balmer and McGonigle along with both wings McAuley and (Campese) Adams began running good lines as a weakening Innishowen continued to struggle against a more aggressive Coleraine pack. With only minutes until the final blow, it was Mr Attitude Simon McClean who sealed a well fought away victory when he crashed over in the Donegal corner from a yard out (although some say that by the time the bus reached the outskirts of Coleraine, the distance appeared to have reached the length of the pitch).
NOTICE: All Youth training at Coleraine cancelled this week due to weather.