City of Armagh travelled to Eaton Park on Saturday to play hosts Ballymena in what was a crucial match for both sides in Division 1B of the All Ireland League.
In blustery conditions the visitors kicked off and immediately went on the offensive with centre, Johnny Pollock making a break deep in to the Ballymena 22.
The home defence was being tested early on, with Armagh fast out of the blocks.
On nine minutes a penalty was kicked to touch and the home pack defended the initial Armagh thrust well.
The ball was spun wide and Ryan Purvis came off his wing at pace to ghost through under the posts for the game’s opening try. Out-half Cormac Fox kicked the conversion for the visitors to lead 0-7.
Ballymena then used their wind advantage to kick deep into Armagh territory. In difficult conditions their first lineout throw was not straight and Armagh won a scrum penalty to clear their lines. The home pack then
took play up to the Armagh line but spilled the ball and Armagh cleared the danger.
The second quarter started with a break by Armagh centre Chris Colvin with Daryl Morton well up in support and the prop charged towards the Ballymena line. Tackled 20 metres out, Ballymena were penalised for killing the ball and lock JJ McKee was sent to the sin-bin. Fox converted the penalty and Armagh led 0-10.
Playing into the stiff wind Armagh showed tenacity in running the ball out of defence. Indiscipline from Ballymena saw a number of penalties go against them and Armagh were able to dominate the first half territorially.
Armagh’s Nigel Simpson was forced to retire injured and was replaced by Gareth McNeice in the back row.
Approaching halftime, a series of penalties gave Armagh good field position. From an attacking line-out the Armagh backline spread the ball wide and winger Andrew Willis touched down in the right corner for a
crucial score before the break.
From the restart, Ballymena forced a turnover in the Armagh 22 but a couple of handling errors let them down
and the halftime whistle went with Armagh having a healthy 0-15 lead at the break.
The second half commenced with Ballymena now playing into the wind but they showed more of an attacking threat throughout the third quarter.
They were aided by a yellow card to Armagh winger, Purvis for slowing down a Ballymena attack. Tim Small kicked the penalty into the corner and the Ballymena pack looked to drive for the line.
Armagh prop, Morton then stole the ball and broke clear to frustrate the home side.
Johnny Pollock then kicked Armagh into a good position forcing the home side to concede a line-out 15 metres out. The referee then penalised Armagh for obstruction and Ballymena were able to clear the danger.
Cormac Fox was wide with a 40 metre penalty attempt and Ballymena then had their best chance of a try when their winger was forced into touch a metre from the try line.
The second half was turning into a scrappy affair and Armagh will be disappointed they didn’t use the
wind effectively to play for territory.
On 62 minutes Ballymena elected to kick a straight-forward penalty from 20 metres and Small reduced arrears to 3-15. The out-half then kicked another penalty five minutes later when the visitors strayed offside and
with 10 minutes remaining, the score was 6-15 in favour of Armagh.
The visitors were then spurred into action and won a scrum 15 metres from the Ballymena line. Armagh number 8 Robert Whitten broke on the blind side and was halted 5 metres short.
Ballymena infringed at the ruck and Armagh elected to go for a scrum.
Remarkably Armagh then won three scrum penalties, prop Cundell was yellow-carded, but no penalty try was awarded. Whitten however was not to be denied and from the next scrum, the Armagh pack drove over for a pushover try. Fox was successful with the conversion and the visitors led 6-22.
In the final minute Ballymena scored a consolation try when their pack drove over from an attacking line-out and a fine conversion by Small completed the scoring, the final whistle sounding for a City of Armagh victory, 13-22.
The Armagh coaching team were delighted to get a hard earned and crucial victory at Eaton Park.
Coach Willie Faloon commented: “Our first half performance was excellent and although we didn’t push on in the second half to close the match out sooner, we are pleased to secure another win in Division 1B against the odds.”
City of Armagh have now climbed to a very creditable fourth place in the league table after the first batch of five AIL games. The team now takes a two week rest while the autumn internationals take place and action
will be resumed with a home fixture at the Palace Grounds against Dublin side Old Beveldere on Saturday, November 24.
Armagh seconds secure League points
The seconds entertained CIYMS in the conference league on Saturday at the Palace grounds in their first game for three weeks.
There was no sign of rustiness however as the home side came out top 57-14 in a very entertaining game.
In the early stages, both teams showed their intent with probing runs requiring a scramble defence to safeguard their line. Kyle Faloon stroked over a penalty on fifteen minutes which was matched by CIYMS shortly after.
The home side where playing with a high tempo with Willie Martin and Stephen Morton providing the beef in the second row and Josh Kennedy, James and Ryan Morton in the back row taking the game to CI in the loose.
From turnover ball in Armagh territory, Gerard Treanor whipped the ball right to Harry Boyd who shipped it out to Kyle Faloon. He took the ball at pace on the half way line to show the CI defence a clean pair of heels to touch down at the posts. With his conversion, the home team team led 10-3.
A period of indiscipline by Armagh led to CI adding two penalties to their tally to leave the half time score 10-9 to Armagh.
On the restart, good pressure on the CI offense by Evan Crummie and John Faloon led to a loose ball being snapped up by James Morton and then transferred for Owen O’Hagan who crossed the line close to the posts, 17-9. With the lineouts working well through Ryan Morton, Millar and Pete lamb, James Morton touched down for the first off his two tries and Millar followed suit shortly after to bring the score to 31-9.
CI were shell shocked by the fluency of the Armagh attacking play in what turned out to be a one sided second half.
Oisin Kernan who had a strong game throughout, was up in support of the ball carrier to receive a try scoring pass to touch down out wide, 36-9.
Kyle Faloon used his pace to cross again and then a missed tackle in the Armagh half led to CI touching down out wide for an unconverted try, 43-14 to Armagh. James Morton added his second try and Ollie Millar was on the end of a good Boyd cross field kick to scorch over from 40 metres out.
With the score at 57-14 the referee blew up early to end a very comprehensive home performance.
The interplay between forwards and backs was a joy to watch and with the first fifteen winning in Ballymena, it is heartening to know that the club is in a very strong position with great strength in depth.