City of Armagh 7 Ballymena 26
City of Armagh faced a stern test on Saturday when they entertained Ballymena at the Palace Grounds in the Ulster Senior League. Both clubs had won their opening fixture earlier in the season.
Since then, Ballymena have lost just one match in the Division 1B of the All Ireland League and also reached the final of the First Trust Senior Cup. Armagh have won 4 and lost 3 in Division 2B making the visitors clear favourites.
Following a minute’s silence in remembrance of the Paris victims and the death of the legendary New Zealand winger, Jonah Lomu, the game kicked off in perfect conditions.
From the start, Ballymena took the initiative and Armagh found themselves pinned in their own half. Sustained pressure led to the opening try for Ballymena, scored by second row Conor Smyth after only 5 minutes on the clock. The conversion put the visitors ahead 0 – 7 and they continued to dominate territory seeking a second score. Armagh held out till the twenty minute mark when full back James Beattie broke through two tackles and ran in from the half way line. Outhalf Magrath converted and Armagh were behind 0 – 14 and thus it remained with Armagh defending bravely until the half time whistle went.
The first period of the second half was a repeat of the first with Ballymena’s strong pack of forwards disrupting Armagh’s possession and their backline threatening at every opportunity.
Ten minutes into the second half, a scrum to Ballymena close to the Armagh line led to a try by number eight Rea which was unconverted and the visitors now led 0 – 19.
On sixty minutes Ballymena scored what was to be their final try of the afternoon. Centre Paddy James rounded off a backline move in the Armagh 22 to score in the corner and the conversion made the scoreline 0 – 26.
Armagh probably played their best rugby in the final quarter and their backs and forwards combined to put Ballymena under some pressure.
With five minutes remaining, Armagh’s endeavour was rewarded when scrum half Harry Doyle darted in for a try under the posts. Outhalf Pollock converted to make the score 7 – 26.
In the final minute Armagh should have had a second try but a careless pass led to the opportunity being missed.
The final whistle went with Ballymena victorious 7 – 26 but the home team can be comforted in restricting the visitors to only four tries during the match.
The Armagh coaching staff were emphatic that the afternoon’s efforts were not all in vain and were keen to stress that the home defence had generally been good throughout the match. Only for a couple of lapses in concentration the result would have been much closer. Also, the way in which the home side rallied in the closing quarter of the game was pleasing.
Next week sees the Armagh side travel south to Munster to play Cork side, Sundays Well in the All-Ireland League. Both teams are level on nineteen points so it promises to be a very close and crucial game in Cork.
Armagh IIs sneak past Dungannon
Armagh seconds played Dungannon seconds in the return league match on Saturday. A comfortable win in the home fixture was not to be repeated in Dungannon.
From the kick off the Armagh forwards were caught ball watching with a home forward snapping up possession on the “floor”. This set the home backs in motion with play continuing with a Dungannon lineout at the Armagh 5 metre line.
After a clean catch and drive, a home second row forward touched down in the corner for an unconverted try, 5-0 to Dungannon after 2 minutes play. Prompted by the coach, Armagh reorganised and took play into the home half for a period where after 20 minutes Paul Campbell drove through the centre and off loaded to Jonny Clarke to touch down at the posts. With the conversion by Kyle Faloon, Armagh led 7-5. With a penalty added shortly after, the half time score was 10-5 to Armagh.
On the resumption, Armagh had hoped to kick on and create a more comfortable margin between the two teams, however line breaks by Mattie Allen and Robbie Faloon were halted by good home defence. Dungannon upped the ante by starting to dominate the scrums and with clean lineout possession on the half way line, they levelled the game with a try at the corner flag, 10-10.
With 10 minutes remaining to win the game, the Armagh forwards led by Magillan, Kneebone and McNeice took play up to the home line. Several pick and drives later, another mistake gave Dungannon an opportunity to clear their line.
Fullback Robbie Faloon again brought play into the home 22 and an infringement by a Dungannon forward led to a penalty in front of the posts which was gratefully accepted by Kyle Faloon. At 13-10 to Armagh, the final whistle sounded with play on the half way line.
Armagh IVs east past Civil Service
City of Armagh fours travelled to Stormont to face a Civil Service side lingering at the bottom of the table. Armagh found themselves not far adrift of them after failing to field last week.
This was a great opportunity to get their season back on track and gain some momentum going into their cu game in a few weeks time. The team being lead by Paul Cully owing to regular Captain David Loughran’s recent injury began the first half well, they managed to keep possession right from the off and put their opponents under sustained pressure with wave after wave of attack.
The first score of the game came completely against the run of play with the hosts slotting over a penalty in front of the posts following some poor discipline by Armagh at the breakdown.
However it wasn’t long before the game was level once again this time with a penalty of our own for a similar offence. Matthey Heaney was successful with the kick. Indeed Heaney had a chance to put Armagh further ahead following a high tackle on himself unfortunately he was unable to score the resulting penalty with the ball going narrowly wide of the upright. Armagh saw themselves with a numerical advantage as the hosts lost a man to the bin for the high tackle just previous.
The lads sensed a great opportunity to kick on and they did not let this opportunity pass them by. They opted to take a quick tap and run at their opponents, a strategy that thankfully paid off. Gareth Crozier who was only recently introduced following a serious head injury to second row Sam Straghan, was able to stretch over the line and a mass of bodies to touch the ball down for the first try of the game.
Heaney scored the conversion and Armagh now found themselves 10-3 ahead with the first quarter of the tie coming to a close. Armagh’s numerical advantage was to be short lived as the referee opted to send Paul Cully to the bin as well in a rather dubious decision.
The opponents scored their second penalty of the game to reduce the deficit. The lads got the rub of the green shortly after the restart when a botched clearance kick by the hosts deep in their own half was caught by fullback Jamie Monaghan. Jamie was able to negotiate his way through some heavy traffic and across the line before touching down. Matthey Heaney added the conversion in what was the last action of the half. Half Time Score; Civil Service 06 Armagh 17.
Armagh emerged for the second half looking to continue from where they left off, their kicking game was getting them in great positions up the field largely due to the accuracy of both Heaney and fly-half Stuart Agnew.
It was not long before they were able to extend their lead with the now impeccable boot of Heaney adding another penalty. The lads were making great strides up the field with some strong ball carrying from the physical centre pairing of Cully and debutant Jack Gilpin. Indeed it was a strong run by the aforementioned pairing that led to Armagh’s next score of the game.
A ball stole at the rear of the opponents lineout by flanker Oisin McGleenan was quickly spread to the backs who found sufficient gas in the hosts defence and were able to penetrate them. Young Jack Gilpin was fed the ball and used all of his strength to knock two lads out of his way en-route to touching the ball down over the line.
Heaney added the conversion to leave twenty one points between the sides midway through the first half. Not content with the one try Gilin pursued a second and got one! This time coming from an impressive run by Cully through the heart of the Civil Service defence, he was then able to spread the ball wide to Gilpin who stretched over the line once more. Scrum-half Heaney added the conversion to leave the scores at 34-6 to the visitors.
With the game all but over Armagh did not relent, the continued to work hard at their game and were operating efficiently both in attack and defence. An intercept in the middle of the field saw fly-half Stuart Agnew embark on a clean break where he managed to weave through a series of defenders on a great solo run before finishing under the posts.
With Heaney’s boot now on autopilot the two touch judges had their flags already raised before he even kicked the ball, their confidence was rewarded as Heaney send the ball straight through the middle of the posts to leave the scores at 41-6 to Armagh with the final ten minutes of the game looming. The hosts day went from bad to worse as they had a layer dismissed with a red card following dissent.
A final score by Armagh from Hooker James Knox was the icing on the cake for this well earned Armagh victory. Heaney added the conversion with his eighth kick from a possible nine in an outstanding individual performance. Full Time Score; Civil Service 06 Armagh 48.
A great team victory inspired by some deadly individual performances ensured this Armagh team did not return from their travels empty handed. They will look to extend this from and bring it into next weeks game against the P.S.N.I at home as they build towards their cup game in two weeks time.
Team: J.Monaghan, G. Graham, J.Gilpin, P. Cully, J. Johnston, S. Agnew, M. Heaney, A. Fletcher, J. Knox, N. Lutton, I. Webster, S. Straghan, A. Hume, O. McGleenan, D. Black, G. Crozier.
Armagh Youth Rugby
All three Armagh teams had a clean sweep kast weekend whenthey travelled to Malone and beat th city side in all three matches. The under 14s had the best result winning by 43 points to 5.
Played in atrocious conditions Armagh started of in great style when Cathal Delvin scored what was the quickest hatrick of tries in the first 20 mins. Cathal is new to rugby and has only played 4 games before this.
He was very difficult to tackle and he stormed over from both close to the line and from far out. Two of his tries were converted by Joel Watton to leave Armagh up 19 -0 after 20 mins.
Malone got back into the game with a try when Armagh tried to run the ball from their own line. Lorcan Hughes went on a mazy run to score a wonderful try from half -way and this was converted by Dillon Fox to leave Armagh very comfortly placed at half-time 26 -5.
The Armagh coaches made several changes to enable evryone to get a game and while it took the boys a while to settle there were further tries from Joel Watton, Sean Hannaway and James Agnew one of which was converted by Joel In fact this was Joel’s first ever try for Armagh.
The boys themselves were delighted with their performance so much so that they celebrated by diving through the mud when leaving the pitch. There were a number of good performances from the Armagh side but Cathal Devlin and David Hearty stood out with their strong running. If this side learns how to tackle they will continue to improve.
The 2 other Armagh teams the under 18s and under 16s both won as well in Malone with the 18s squeezing through 24-14 and the 16s winning 20-7 as well.
Numbers training continue to grow but we would need some extra help to work with the boys.