The Coleraine rugby derby this week was a close run affair, but a last gasp try from the town won the day for them.
Coleraine University came to Rugby Avenue for their first league fixture of the season, both sides fresh from Junior Cup success last weekend. It was a fast paced affair, the students taking the lead with seven minutes to go only see the hosts score in the last minute and snatch a 20-18 win.
Speaking after the game Coleraine coach Richard Beggs said: “That was a tense local derby and the Uni gave us a tight game. We made hard work of it but a win is a win.
“We squandered some great opportunities to score and made some silly mistakes. I thought our first half was very controlled, the penalty count was low and that is important. We have been working on that.
“We have a young team and we were missing some influential players this week, which showed in some areas of the game. We had our chances to get a bonus point but didn’t take them - that is something to work on.
“Next week we entertain Bangor, a team that has been very strong this season. They will give us a really hard game and we will have the chance to see just how we can fair.”
On Saturday both sides played open running rugby but the University scrum struggled throughout the game. It was the visitors however who took the first points. With ten minutes on the clock, winger Sam Hall seized his opportunity after the visitors attacked deep into town territory, beating the last two defenders to score. The conversion went wide. Coleraine reduced the point deficit with a penalty from Bokkie Carstens on 20 minutes but three minutes later a Uni attack saw Matchett claim a further three.
Just on the half hour Coleraine’s Mikey Poskitt made great use of the ball from a Coleraine ruck as they pressured inside the Uni 22. An incisive break saw the ball fed to Carstens to charge over the line and then convert for seven points. Just before the break the visitors attacked and Matchett scored three points from a penalty.
Coleraine seemed sure to score just as the half ended, the ball moving smartly across the backs from a strong scrum in the Uni 22, only to be spilt short of the line. As the second half began Coleraine went on the offensive. Poskitt was held up as he went over the line following some sharp penetrating work from the backline. Another promising foray into the visitor’s 22 ended with the ball hitting the referee and derailing the attack. Stevie Patterson set up another attack with a deft chip and chase but yet again possession was lost.
Ten minutes into the half Coleraine elected to attempt a kick at goal from a penalty just inside the Uni half. Poskitt’s long range effort fell just short. The pressure continued and hooker Stuart Evans came close but was also stopped, just short of the line.
Coleraine’s efforts paid off following a series of forward phases which again brought play into the visitor’s territory. Flanker Andrew Neely showed fantastic speed and agility from the 22 as he stepped round the defence to score in the corner. The Uni went on the offensive and with 33 minutes of the half gone they scored following a 5m lineout, scrum half Easop getting the final touch after a well coordinated attack. Matchett converted to put the Uni in the lead.
In the last minutes of the game Uni second row McCrabbe was shown a yellow card and the penalty was kicked to touch and a 5m lineout. From the resultant ruck Poskitt and Patterson combined to attack and feed the ball to a charging Conor Simpson who ran a great line to force through the defence and score. The conversion went just right of the posts and the whistle brought the game to an end. The scoreline, Coleraine 20-18 University, leaves Coleraine joint third in the league after three games.
The Thirds lost out 31-25 away to Academy Seconds. This weekend Bangor visit Coleraine in the league.
They will be buoyant having beaten league leaders Clogher Valley on Saturday. It will be a stern test for the youthful Bannsiders and again the club will be looking for a big, vocal support for the Coleraine team.
Coleraine First XV: A Gaston, S Evans, M Hunter (Best), S McLean, D Ramage, A Neely, B Mullan, A Barr, C Simpson, S Patterson. S Douglas, B Carstens, M Poskitt, A McAuley, B Cochrane. Subs: S Best, T Van Wyk