BELFAST side CIYMS were the visitors to Sandel Lodge on Saturday hoping to build on an impressive start to the season, which has seen them lose only once so far - to league leaders Portadown.
And true to form it was CIYMS who prevailed, with a 34-27 scoreline ensuring that they returned to Belmont having secured the maximum five points.
Coleraine were deprived of the services of skipper Stephen Douglas and with Kenny Calladine also unavailable, a re-jigged pack included an engine room of Willie Chestnutt and Simon Mclean with Daniel Ramage switching to the back row. CI had first use of a gusting wind and opened the scoring in the sixth minute through an attack started and finished by scrum half Wilson. The diminutive number nine tapped a free kick on halfway after Coleraine had been penalised for a crooked feed and poor defending on the narrow side by the home team allowed winger McCausland to charge down the touchline before slipping a pass inside, when 10 metres short of the line. McGuigan added a simple conversion.
Coleraine’s last two outings in the Kukri league have resulted in defeats, albeit to front runners, so this was an unpromising portent but to the delight of the home support, the response was immediate and positive. The following 15 minutes of action was conducted almost exclusively within CI territory with the dominant home scrum, headlined by the front row of Stephen Best, Mark Hunter and Aaron Gaston providing much of the impetus. Half backs Archie Kettyle and Bokkie Carstens orchestrated attacks as the visitors’ defence worked hard to prevent any telling line breaks and significantly, as it turned out, Coleraine’s only reward for this period of superiority was a trio of penalties.
Michael Poskitt, having narrowly missed with an earlier effort, hit the target in the 14th minute and five minutes later Carstens reduced the deficit further. Both XV’s had opportunities to add to their totals during the second quarter. Another sharp handling attack launched from their own half by the Belfast club set alarm bells ringing in the Coleraine defence until the covering Nigel Hall came to the rescue and at the other end the home side retained possession through double figure phases before Carstens’ chip into space was well read by Brown and the siege lifted.
As it was however the only other points accrued came from the accurate boot of CI’s number 10 McGuigan who struck a dropped goal and a penalty in the 31st and 38th minutes, respectively. The wind at their backs, Coleraine remained very much in the game as the second half began but once again it was the visitors who started the better and this time the home XV response was disappointing with too many players falling off tackles and occasional moments of ill discipline undoing promising attacks. A 52nd minute try by Wilson, who scooted in by the posts after centre Hodgen had wrong footed a couple of home defenders was followed just short of the hour mark by another when back row forward Scott gathered his own chip kick and provided Hodgen with a scoring pass. McGuigan added the extras in both cases.
The scoreline was flattering to the Belfast team and the Sandel Lodge side was rewarded after 62 minutes, when as CI attempted to clear from a scrum deep in their own 22, the busy Carstens took possession and burst through for a try which he also converted. Having closed the gap Coleraine found themselves back at square one only moments later when the visitors counter attacked on half way and wing McCausland was sent clear for his side’s all important fourth try, with McGuigan converting.
Undaunted the Bannsiders swept onto the attack demonstrating good ball retention in the tackle and pinning their opponents back, inside their own 22. Strong runs by Johnny Henderson, Andy Neely and Bokkie Carstens carried them through tackles but not to the try line and then when Kettyle fed the onrushing Best, two metres short of the line it took a magnificent tackle from Hackney to prevent the prop from scoring. The pressure mounted and a visiting back row forward was binned, Coleraine exploiting the numerical advantage to create an opportunity for the impressive Carstens to run round behind the posts and subsequently convert.
A losing bonus point was now a possibility but, as McGuigan restarted play, only three minutes remained on the watch. The kick was safely gathered and Carstens fed Conor Simpson on the Coleraine 22. The young centre had been well marshalled by the CI midfield for most of the game but this time he slipped his marker and raced over half way before linking with Nigel Hall who kicked ahead and forced CI to concede a five metre scrum. A pushover try was on the cards but Coleraine mishandled and when it was the turn of the Belfast club to feed, a retreating scrum and and the persistence of Kettyle caused confusion and the home scrum half nipped in for a try which Carstens converted to signal the end of the game and a losing bonus point for a Coleraine side which must improve in some areas but has also much to commend it.