RUGBY: Firsts thump league leaders

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THERE was jubilation in the Coleraine camp on Wednesday evening when they trounced league leaders Armagh and claimed a winning bonus point in the process.

It was a storming performance and showed the skill levels and power that lie in the Coleraine side. The Armagh men had no answer to the Coleraine onslaught and in the second half only clocked up three points in answer to 21 from the home side.

Coleraine captain Stephen Dickey set the tone with a try two minutes into the match. Coleraine pressured the Armagh lines forcing a throw in inside the Armagh 22. The forwards rolled forward in attack and it was Dickey with the final touch. Adam Parke’s well weighted conversion attempt drifted just wide.

The home side’s pressure continued and was rewarded 17 minutes into the game. Again play was camped in the Armagh 22 and, attacking from a Coleraine throw in, the forwards again surged and Leslie George was the carrier as they crossed the line and scored. Parke was on target for the extras.

Just on the half hour Armagh began a fight back. As they attacked the ball was chipped over the Coleraine defence. A perfect bounce went into the hands of Armagh’s Holmes and he sprinted clear for a converted score under the posts.

Just before the break, as Armagh continued the attack the Armagh scrum-half, Wright, showed great initiative, leaping over the ruck, evading the defence and scoring beside the posts. The conversion saw Armagh take the lead for the first time in the match; the half time score line Coleraine 12 Armagh 14.

From the start of the second half both sides were pushing hard. Two minutes in Parke had a difficult penalty which drifted wide.

Six minutes later and Armagh were mounting a ferocious attack on the Coleraine lines. They could find no way through the defence and settled for a penalty which Steenson slotted in for three points, the last points Armagh were to score.

From the restart Coleriane charged into the Armagh 22. The forwards worked well through several phases and then the backs were unleashed.

It was Neil Patterson who took the ball over the line for the Bannsiders, beside the posts, and Parke made light work of the conversion to claim the other two points.

Coleraine made some changes which saw Stephen Jefferson come on for Jarleth Carey and newcomer Alex Gourley replacing Neil Montgomery.

On 20 minutes Coleraine again attacked deep into Armagh territory. On this occasion the combined efforts of the home side saw Gourley almost go over for a try.

A short time later Coleraine were camped on the Armagh five metre line and eventually the combined effort of phase after phase of attack brought the score. Coleraine scrum half Stuart Simpson did the honours, nipping through the defence and Parke converted.

Armagh mounted a massive attack and for five minutes the Coleraine defence stood rock solid as the visitors failed to find a way through. Eventually a penalty relieved the pressure and Coleraine cleared up field.

As the match moved closer to the end Carey rejoined the fray after Jefferson was injured. The rest must have done him good as in the next move Coleraine came close to the try line and Carey was in possession as the forwards crossed the line, claiming the bonus point try. Parke was on target yet again to complete the scoring at Coleraine 33 Armagh 17.

Players, coaches and supporters were delighted with the season’s best performance.

At present Coleraine lie third in the Junior League with 56 points but have only one match left in the competition, against Clogher Valley on April 23. Cooke. Armagh, Clogher Valley and Portadown all have fixtures to fulfil before the end of the season and those results will determine the final composition of the top five, the winner being promoted and the other four taking part in the All Ireland junior league next season. Coleraine are hopeful that they will make the cut.

Elsewhere in the club the scores were: Coleraine Seconds 45 Ballymoney Seconds 0, Coleraine Fourths 12 Queens Thirds 37. The Thirds match against Donaghadee was called off.

This weekend all eyes will be on the Seconds against Ballynahinch and the Thirds against Armagh, both at home in the Crawford Cup semis. Both teams will want your support, so come along and cheer them on as they both seek a place in the Easter Tuesday final in Ravenhill.

Coleraine First XV: L George, D Ferguson, J Carey, P Bogle, W Hunt, N Montgomery, B Mullan, S Dickey, S Simpson, A Parke, J Henderson, C Barber, N Patterson, N Irwin, B Cochrane. Subs: S Jefferson, A Gourley.