TOWN DEFEATS GOWN
On a day when the excellent weather conditions at the Cranagh had heightened expectations of a lively game of rugby, the players of UUC and Coleraine duly delivered, the visitors triumphing 28-24, after a thoroughly entertaining contest.
There was plenty at stake in this game with the student side currently battling to avoid relegation and Coleraine harbouring ambitions of a top four finish and subsequent qualification for next season’s All Ireland Junior Cup, so it was not unexpected that the opening 10 minutes of play was characterised by errors from both sets of players before the game burst into life.
The visitors had gained an immediate advantage at scrum time and after a 12th minute penalty attempt by David Andrews had drifted wide of the left hand post, Coleraine’s edge in the set piece provided the impetus for a sustained attack. The student defence held firm against a series of close range drives for the line before Paul Roxborough broadened the base of the attack and good handling by Andrews and Neil Patterson gave Alex Gourley enough room to weave his way past a couple of defenders for a fine unconverted try.
That score arrived in the 15th minute and the sizeable crowd of spectators were to witness three further high quality tries in the space of 10 minutes.
The response by UUC was immediate, profiting from the Sandel Lodge XV coughing up the restart and patiently building an attack through a number of phases before creating space on the right hand side and sending fullback Lee Johnston in for a try which Glen Bailey converted.
Andrews restarted the game with a fine kick which forced a handling error in the opposition and once more the student line came under threat as Coleraine players came tantalisingly close to scoring on several occasions before once again Roxborough changed the point of attack with a long pass to Gourley, loitering with intent close to the left touchline and the young fullback crossed for his second score, with Andrews adding the extras. 7-12.
This time Coleraine safely secured possession following the restart and immediately brought play deep into UUC territory, searching for more points but when the student XV snaffled possession inside the home 22 they spotted a potential overlap and had the confidence and ability to handle, putting the dangerous Sam Hall clear on halfway for an unconverted try.
Once more the visitors returned to the attack but UUC remained hard working and disciplined in defence until in the 34th minute, centre James Henley was yellow carded and Andrews kicked the subsequent penalty from in front of the posts.
It was to prove to be a costly indiscretion by Henly because two minutes later Coleraine conjured up a third try.
The architect was scrum half Roxborough who fed the unmarked blind side wing, Brian Cochrane, following a scrum inside the Coleraine 22. The winger skilfully wrongfooted a would-be tackler and raced to half-way before linking once more with Roxborough and the scrumhalf’s cleverly delayed pass to the energetic Andrew Neely saw the wing forward scamper 20 metres along the right hand touchline for a delightful try. Andrews added a conversion and with the final play of the first half, the same player extended his side’s lead with a long range penalty.
On the resumption, Coleraine thoughts may well have centred on obtaining a bonus point courtesy of a fourth try but it was their opponents who, importantly from their perspective, pressed from the outset and a number of carries close to the Coleraine line paved the way for Glen Bailey, the UUC scrum half, to dive over the line for an unconverted try.
Of further concern to the Coleraine support at this point was the departure of a limping Andrews but with Neil Patterson moving into the Number 10 position and Chris Archibald coming on as substitute the Sandel Lodge forwards responded to the promptings of the experienced Jarlath Carey and Steven Douglas and kept play confined to their opponent’s half.
Just short of the hour, fine work by Stevie Patterson at the breakdown won his side a penalty and Roxborough stepped up to stroke over a 25 metre penalty from the right of the posts and extend the lead to 11 points. The see-saw nature of the match continued with the home XV taking play into the Coleraine 22 but ill discipline cost the students dearly at this point and having brought play to the other end the visitors could have sealed the win if they had shown a little more patience when going through the phases.
They nearly paid for it, losing Alex Gourley and Graeme Neely to the bin and finishing with 13 men as the home team threw everything at them in the closing stages. Five minutes play remained when after a series of tapped penalties skipper Peter Smith crashed over by the posts and Bailey added the conversion. 24-28.
A brace of losing bonus points was reward for a strong performance by UUC and an improving Coleraine XV, in which back-row forward James Cromie was a strong contender for Man-of-the-Match will have been delighted to take the honours in a game which was a fine advertisement for Qualifying League rugby.
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Weather for Coleraine
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 10 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West