Coleraine’s trio of youth teams made the trip to Eaton Park last Saturday to take on Ballymena in the first round of the Cup and came away with impressive victories for the U13s and U17s with the U15s beaten but not disheartened.
Bolstered by a fresh crop of new arrivals to the squad as a result of newly appointed CCRO Gavin Darragh’s work in the schools in time for the cup and league campaigns, Coleraine’s U13s fielded a mixture of experience and novices.
From the off, Coleraine stamped their authority with two quick tries in succession both scored by 10 Harry McAleese both converted by the strong foot of open side flanker Callum Boorman. Never a team to give in too easily Ballymena came right back at the Rugby Avenue team to level the score at half time (14 - 14).
With the game ready to go either way, the restart saw the Coleraine lads dominate the breakdowns and scrums from a sturdy forward line up of loose head prop Thomas Bucukoglu, debutants Jack Elliot and Joel McIntyre alternating at tight head, either side of the impressive hooking skills of Ewan Williams, backed up by the experienced second row of Dylan Holmes and one to watch, Aaron Myers.
With flankers Callum Boorman and Laim Deehan and captain Jamie Stirling at 8, the Ballymena opposition were simply unable to live with the forwards fire power.
Meanwhile the backs were beginning to capitalise on their forwards efforts as with Brandon McCorriston and Alan Thompson proving a strong centre pairing flanked by wings Oscar Smith and Adam Dobbin and supported by fullback Anthony Christopher.
It was that man McAleese again who can’t stop scoring who grabbed another three tries with two for Stirling and one from the busy scrum half Mathew King.
Boorman converted a brilliant tally of seven from eight to hand the lads from Rugby Avenue an emphatic victory of 56 - 28 which sets them up for the next round of the cup at home against derby rivals Ballymoney (7th December).
The U17 Premier Two squad recorded a well deserved first round cup victory over unbeaten Premier One opposition Ballymena on their home soil.
Ballymena opened the scoring with a converted try. With the pitch holding up, Coleraine’s back line had opportunities to move the ball although a physically bigger Ballymena pack were proving a tough wall to break.
Ten minutes before the break Coleraine’s MOM No 10 Rory Strang touched down and convert his own try to send the visitors into a 10–7 lead.
Coleraine started the second period where they left off in the first with a magnificent try in at the corner from winger Joseph Lundy. Up stepped the amazing boot of Rory Strang to convert from the sideline.
Ballymena’sbigger pack barged over from a 15 metres out to make it 12–17.
Coleraine hooker Ruaridh Sweeney and burly centre Jordan Neely both played a big part with some fearless tackling with captain Daniel Henderson leading by example.
With the game inching towards the end, Ballymena’s discipline was breaking down and on more than one occasion, were made to retreat several yards, giving Coleraine the incentive to maintain order and up the pace.
Further ill discipline from Ballymena granted Coleraine a very kickable penalty, easily converted by the in form Strang.
Coleraine piled on the pressure and only a last gasp tackle close to their line stopped what would have been the try of the game as the busy Jordan Neely took the ball at pace and chose a superb line to slice through Ballymena’s defence to the delight of both sets of supporters.
Eventually Ballymena’s defence crumbled as Coleraine’s forwards made a big push to drive over with Alistair Jinks making the necessary touch down. Once again Strang successfully converted.
With Ballymena’s resolve broken a rampant Coleraine were granted a further final penalty which Strang gladly converted to bring the final score 12 – 30 and send the Rugby Avenue boys and their delighted Coaches and travelling support home to prepare for their next league game home to Derry next Saturday.
In contrast to the U13s and U17s victories, Coleraine’s U15s fared less well going down to a thumping of 65–0.
In a game of two halves, where Coleraine dominated most of the play in the first period and only just failing to score twice and one from a poor refereeing decision. Ballymena exploited Coleraine’s defensive weaknesses to more or less score at will in the second period.
Newly appointed Ulster & Coleraine RFC Club Community Rugby Officer Gavin Darragh is working hard visiting local schools to coach and recruit more young players to the U13s and 15s.
Any young boys fancy trying rugby, training every Monday and Wednesday night 6.45 – 830 pm. All welcome.