Coleraine welcomed Academy Firsts on Saturday and maintained their drive towards promotion to Division One of the Championship, with a bonus point 41-6 victory over the Belfast visitors.
Undoubtedly, it was a comfortable win for the “Cookstown” sponsored home side but it was secured on the strength of a dominant second half performance which saw the Bannsiders run in half a dozen unanswered tries, overturning Academy’s 6-5 half-time advantage.
After the game Coleraine Head Coach Richard Boyd said: “I am pleased to get another bonus point win and to keep the momentum going.
“The squad strength and depth was tested to the full this week with 1st XV regulars Stuart Evans, Daniel Ramage, Michael Ferguson, Bokkie Carstens, Mikey Poskitt and Niall Irwin all unavailable.
“The size of our squad has been our biggest weapon this year and it has come into its own over the last few weeks.
“The first half was disappointing as we tried to force things and made a number of frustrating handling errors.
“Academy defended very well and used the wind to their advantage to push us back into our own half on a number of occasions.
“We played at a frantic pace but we need to get the balance between tempo and control. I thought the team responded well in the second half and to run in six tries was an impressive effort.
“We looked after the ball much better and started to go through the phases which opened up more opportunities to score.
“I thought Dijon McCorkell and Roger Bonnar really got us onto the front foot with some excellent carries and Rory Strang continued his rich vein of form from full back. I was delighted to see Peter Wisener and Daniel McCreadie to do so well on their 1stXV debuts and both players did not look out of place.
“We have a local derby against a much improved UUC side this weekend and we will be working hard this week at training to ensure that we are focused.
“With all other teams not playing next week it allows us to catch up on our game in hand and hopefully go 13 points clear with 4 games to go.”
Injuries had impinged upon selection for both teams and that perhaps accounted for a rather scrappy opening quarter.
Coleraine full-back,Rory Strang made the first telling contribution for the home side with twenty minutes on the clock when he scored a try. Alan Clarke’s touchline conversion attempt drifted wide of the posts. 5-0.
During the second quarter, Coleraine created a number of other promising attacks but failed to apply the coup de grace and paid for it when Chris Cooper struck a brace of penalties with a slender 5-6 half-time lead.
The Academy cause was not aided, early in the half, when a prop was yellow carded for up-ending Brian Hughes at a line-out and two minutes later Coleraine centre Kyle McAuley touched down, beside the posts. Clarke added the extras. 12-6.
With the visitors still a man down winger Alan Clarke raced clear for another unconverted try. 17-6.
The home XV claimed the all-important bonus point, in the 58th minute, when with Academy once again reduced to 14 players, the hard running Steven Dickey tapped a quick penalty to himself, 15 metres out and powered over in the left hand corner. 22-6.
The last quarter of the game saw Coleraine add three further tries. In the weekend’s other game Coleraine Seconds lost out 24-17 away to Portadown in the Crawford Cup.
This weekend the Firsts entertain UUC in the league, the Seconds entertain Strabane and the Thirds are away to Carrick.
ColeraineFirst XV: D.McCorkell, D. Greatorex, C.Nash; D.D.McAllister, J.Christie; R.Bonnar, B.Hughes, S.Dickey; R.McAuley, A.Parke; D.McCreadie, K.McAuley, B.Cochrane, A.Clarke; R.Strang. Subs (Both played): J.Blair, P.Wisener.