In the undercard to next week’s Junior Cup final, Coleraine 2XV entertained Donaghadee 2XV in the opening round of this season’s Crawford Cup.
A late December game rarely provides a great spectacle, and the rain, hail and sleet didn’t really help for handling or flowing rugby. However, as beaten finalists last year, the Coleraine team will hope to go one better this year, and started their campaign with an emphatic win at Sandel Lodge.
Playing with the wind, ‘Dee handed the initiative straight to Coleraine after a kick that didn’t cross the 10m line. From the resulting centre field scrum, Coleraine were able to command both territory and possession deep in the ‘Dee half.
‘Dee were put under a lot of pressure in their own 22 before being eventually penalised for holding on, and out-half Greg Jordan made no mistake with the kick. Yet again ‘Dee failed with the kick off, and tactical kicking from Jordan pinned ‘Dee back in their 22. ‘Dee attempted to clear their lines, but the kick failed to make touch and was gathered up by winger Alan Gourley. Gourley stepped his way through a few tackles before then passing inside to full-back Paul Shiels who had the simple task of running in under the posts for the game’s first try.
Straight back into attack, Coleraine forwards made ground into the ‘Dee half before the ball was in the hands of second-row Willy Hunt. Hunt bulldozed his way to within inches of the ‘Dee line and was able to pop the ball into the hands of Jordan who was in close support to score. Then, somewhat against the run of play, ‘Dee came back into the game, scoring a converted try after charging down an attempted clearance kick.
However, Coleraine had the last score of the half with a converted penalty to lead 18-7 at the interval.
After the half time break, Coleraine turned to play with the elements and were able to keep ‘Dee pinned into their own half for long periods of play. The opening score of the half came from another run from Hunt who ploughed his way through several ‘Dee players before being brought down yards from the line. The ball was recycled quickly and Graham Neely was the man on hand to score from short range.
Now the Coleraine pack were dominating in the lineout, with Alex Gourley winning plenty of opposition ball, and at scrum time, with the front row doing a good job on the heavier ‘Dee forwards. Another win against the head provided a base from which no. 8 Peter Bogle picked up and waltzed home untouched from 15 yards out. Now Jordan was pulling the strings nicely for the backs, and centres John McClelland and Ray Naea were now finding gaps and making linebreaks through the ‘Dee backline.
It was another Jordan kick through that created the next try for blind-side Harry Tate, who won foot race to the ball before diving over for the score. Jordan himself scored the sixth try after a show-and-go through a gap for him to get under the sticks for another converted try. The final try of the game was again provided by Jordan who sent a banana kick over the ‘Dee defence for Alan Gourley to score in the left corner.
A good effort by the Coleraine team, and although they never really hit top gear, will be proud of the way they maintained discipline and cohesion throughout the 80 minutes. ‘Dee played with good spirit and battled hard but at the end of the day the gap between three leagues was evident.
Also well done for the supporters who braved the rain and hailstorm to come and watch. Harder challenges will be ahead and after the Christmas break it will be back to league action on New Year’s Eve with an away fixture to Portadown.
Team: P Shiels, C Jinx, R Naea, J McClelland, Alan Gourley, G Jordan, S Caithness, S Jones, S Evans, G Blair, W Hunt, G Neely, H Tate, Alex Gourley, P Bogle