LAST Saturday, September 8th, Coleraine Academical Institution 1st XV opened their account for the season with a solid away victory to Carrickfergus Grammar School.
The away side started the brighter of the two teams supplying wave after wave of attacks from the off, which looked to have caught the Carrickfergus side by surprise. Hard ball carrying by number 8 Nick Logan, back rower Daniel McAllister and hooker Kieran Burns allowed for the Inst backline to use their pace and skill to exploit any weaknesses in the opposition defence.
The Coleraine side controlled all of the play for the first ten minutes with Carrickfergus struggling to deal with the powerful play up front and the hard running in the backs. The only thing lacking from the Inst performance were points to show for it. Step up Cameron Fulton. After an infringement at the ruck, Fulton slotted over the kick right in front from 20 metres. CAI 3-0.
Carrick regrouped for the kickoff but was to be undone straight away. The kickoff was taken with relative ease and taken in by Thomas Pethick, with quick ball from Bruce Campbell, Coleraine were able to mount a counterattack with Fulton moving the ball quickly to Stanbridge on the wing, who kicked over the top to a deserted back three. Great chasing from Wing Mark Gordon and Centre Peter Acheson put on serious pressure allowed Gordon to win the turnover, quick ball from Campbell saw Captain Nick Logan run under the posts for the match’s and Coleraine’s first try.
In the next fifteen minutes Carrick began to get a foothold in the game with use of hard carries from the front row causing Inst a few problems in defence. After sustained pressure in the Coleraine 22, the ball was moved out to the midfield with the Inst backline defending hard, causing out-half Johnny Crowe to force a bone crunching tackle on the Carrick second row and in the process injuring himself.
Crowe was replaced by Faith-Kelly and after a reshuffle, the match continued. This spurred on the Inst team on and they battled their way up to the other end of the pitch, forcing a penalty after another infringement at the ruck. The kick, harder than the previous and just drifted wide on that occasion. A few minutes later another key member of the squad, flanker Adam Ramsay suffered an ankle injury and was forced to leave the field of play to be replaced by James Bleakly. In the final minute of the half, a penalty against Coleraine in front of the posts after a try saving tackle from Acheson a minute previously, would have seemed regulation for opposition’s first points of the game, but the kick drifted wayward.
Into the second half and with only the one change seeing Jordan Neely replace Scott Harper in the front row, with a rejuvenated Inst side, they began the second half as they did the first. Again hard graft in the forwards through Captain Nick Logan and Oliver McDowell laid the platform for a try scoring opportunity in the opposition 22 which quickly evaporated after good work from the Carrick forwards earning the turnover. Not to be outdone, the Inst team put the pressure immediately back on their opponent forcing an attacking lineout in their 22. The well worked catch and drive was very nearly turned to celebration but for Thomas Pethick to be held up just short.
The Inst side took heart from this and after an extended period of pressure in the 49th minute forced a five metre scrum on the opposition’s line and after great work by both Acheson and Neely in the loose saw centre Stanbridge get an offload from Neely and bundle himself over the line from five metres out for their second try of the match, Fulton converted the conversion in front of the posts to make the score 17-0 in favour of the visitors.
Only five minutes later and the Coleraine side were back were they had been a few moments earlier, with Carrick having seemingly no reply. After a clearing kick from the Carrick fullback, the Inst back three linked well to put Luke Scott with an arching run, was put through a tight gap showing great pace and strength to break the line. Following another infringement from the Carrick number six, Coleraine gain a penalty but it is missed but with the Carrick player in front of the posts knocking on the missed kick, Coleraine gained a very lucky s
crum on the opposition five metre line. From the resulting scrum Nick Logan picked up and beat his opposition seven to score under the posts. The conversion followed quickly to make the score 24-0 to Coleraine in the 56 minute. Carrick responds well though, 5 minutes later they managed to regain possession and after some nice interplay and hard work at the breakdown forced a penalty which the out half dually obliged. CAI 24-3. After Wallace, Graham and Wisener replaced Scott, McCook and McDowell. Inst forced and another penalty out wide but Fulton’s kick just drifted right. In the final minute, Carrick rallied and after number of phases in the 22, squeezed over the line for a somewhat consolation try. Conversion Missed.
This victory was a solid start for a once again a very young 1st XV side. For the second year running a number of players have made their 1st appearance at this level. In total a number of twelve out of their twenty one man squad made their first appearance for the 1st XV and there is plenty of room for improvement for this young side.