RUGBY: Coleraine too strong for Randalstown

Coleraine's Adam Parke bursting through a Randalstown tackler.  Photo by David McDonald.
Coleraine's Adam Parke bursting through a Randalstown tackler. Photo by David McDonald.

Coleraine maintain number one spot in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship, Division 2, league following a bonus point win, away to Randalstown, at the weekend.

In a spirited game Coleraine’s pack dominated, creating the platform for four tries, including a Steven Dickey hat-trick. The final 26-0 scoreline maintains a six-point space between the ‘Cookstown’ sponsored Bannsiders and second placed CIYMS.

Speaking after the game, Coleraine’s head coach Richard Boyd said: “I am really pleased with this hard fought win away from home.

“Randalstown is never an easy place to play and it has been a bit of a bogey venue for Coleraine over the past three seasons. To not only get the win but also achieve a bonus point and keep a clean sheet is a real bonus.

“This was a real squad effort with five of our regular starting squad unavailable including Michael Poskitt, Brian Hughes, Roger Bonnar, Niall Irwin and David Greatorex. The size and quality of our squad has been our greatest strength this season and it came into its own this week in particular.

“Our scrum was immense today and it laid the platform for the win. Real credit must go to the pack for their efforts and how they coped with losing our hooker within the first few minutes.

“Defensively we were strong again and showed great spirit and determination to keep Randalstown out right to the end.”

Looking forward to a break in the fixture list, Richard said: “This has been a tough run of five games and we are delighted to remain unbeaten in the league. We have a well-deserved rest week this week and look forward to returning to training, refreshed and motivated, for a run of four vital home games in a row throughout February.”

The game on Saturday started with the home side on the attack and within five minutes, Coleraine suffered a set-back as hooker Stuart Evans was injured and the pack was reorganised to bring James Blair to the front row, joining Dijon McCorkell and Chris Nash taking the hooker role.

Both sides threw everything into attack and play moved swiftly from end to end. A number of scoring opportunities were denied, Coleraine crossing the line only to have the ball held up on more than one occasion.

With 22 minutes gone the Coleraine pack showed their dominance with a sustained attack culminating in a massed surge over the line, number 8 Steven Dickey getting the touchdown. Alan Clarke was on target with a well struck conversion. 0-7

Ten minutes later Clarke was just wide with a 25-metre penalty awarded after a period of intense Coleraine pressure.

Just before the break Coleraine had the put-in at a five-metre scrum and the pack ground their way across the line, Dickey again judging things well to secure the score. Clarke was also on target. 0-14

In the second half both sides produced spirited attacks and sound defence and it was 15 minutes before Coleraine claimed the next score.

The pack was again the determining factor, surging across the line and Dickey controlling the ball before touching down for the points. The conversion drifted just wide. 0-19

With 25 minutes of the half played Coleraine’s Josh Christie was sin-binned but despite being at a numerical disadvantage the visitors piled on the pressure, attacking deep into the Randalstown 22. The pack provided another massive push towards the corner, on this occasion Chris Nash getting the touch. Clarke slotted the ball between the posts from a very difficult angle to claim the extras. 0-26

Both sides attacked gamely but there were no further scores. At the final whistle, Coleraine were well satisfied with the bonus point victory.

In Saturday’s only other fixture, Coleraine Seconds produced a commanding performance as they entertained Clogher Valley in the league, winning with a score of 27-0 and securing a bonus point to maintain their present first place in the league.

Coleraine Seconds kept the pressure on Portadown at the top of the Ulster Rugby Provincial, Division 2, league with a 27-0 victory at Sandel Lodge over a stubborn Clogher Valley side on Saturday.

Young centre Bruce Kirkpatrick took the home plaudits with a fine solo try in the final minutes, to secure a bonus point that could prove crucial at the end of the season.

The home side made a bright start in conditions that were perfect for running rugby and the Bannsiders’ willingness to handle saw Ady Nevin penalised for a double movement in stretching for the line when he completed a sweeping attack.

The first points did arrive shortly after, in the tenth minute. Right wing Caleb Wallace collected a clearance and countered strongly. From the resulting ruck, lock forward Mark Gillis chose a great line and powered through the midfield defence before being halted.

Once again the ball came back quickly and three well timed passes sent Bruce Kirkpatrick off on a touch line run which had too much pace and power for several would-be tacklers. Paul Roxborough’s conversion attempt drifted wide. 5-0.

Despite fielding a strong, experienced pack, the visitors were struggling to achieve domination in the set-pieces. The Coleraine line out was operating smoothly with Nevin finding the excellent John Rankin and Reuben Simpson and the experienced Roxborough impressed in getting the ball safely to his half-back partner, Andrew Wisener, on the occasions that the scrum did retreat.

A high tackle on the Clogher 22, directly in front of the posts, presented Roxborough with a kicking opportunity and he nudged his side further ahead with twenty minutes played. 8-0.

Five minutes later, skipper Greg Jordan’s appreciation of space caused him to change the direction of attack and, stepping inside, he weaved his way past a number of defenders before linking with Roxborough, who cantered in for a fine score. 13-0.

With the half-time whistle imminent, Jordan struck another blow when he intercepted a pass on the Clogher 10-metre line and raced clear for a try, converted by Roxborough, leaving the half time score at 20-0.

There had been much to admire, individually and collectively about the home team’s performance in the first half but unfortunately the second period was less impressive, punctuated as it was, with handling errors.

All too often promising attacks broke down when the hard work had been done and a stretched defence was given a welcome reprieve. Indeed, the Co Tyrone side grew in confidence and Coleraine had to battle at the breakdown to deny their opponents some reward for their efforts.

A fourth try and the resulting bonus point began to appear less and less likely until Kirkpatrick’s late intervention and minutes after Roxborough’s conversion, the referee blew for full-time.27-0