City of Armagh RFC 26 Malone RFC 19
History was made at the Palace Grounds on Saturday when City of Armagh defeated Malone to reach the club’s first ever Senior Cup final.
Both teams were understrength and the Armagh pack was missing influential captain, Ali Birch, Peter Starrett, James Hanna and Philip Fletcher. In the backline, both John and Robbie Faloon were injured so the team had quite a different look to
it when Malone kicked off in perfect conditions.
It was the visitors who got off to a fast start with a penalty in the first minute being converted by winger Mark O’Conner for a 0-3 lead.
Just as in the previous AIL encounter in Belfast, Malone dominated the early exchanges as they sought to stretch the Armagh defence. A further Armagh infringement was penalised by the referee and O’Connor converted for a 0-6 lead to Malone.
The home team had their first threatening attack when flanker Robert Whitten broke upfield and supporting winger, Ryan Purvis was unlucky to be forced into touch on the Malone 22.
Malone quickly turned defence into attack and their sharp backline created an opening for winger O’Connor to squeeze in for a try in the corner.
The conversion was unsuccessful but with only 15 minutes on the clock, Armagh were 11 nil down and a difficult afternoon looked on the cards.
From the restart, Armagh turned over possession to launch an attack in the Malone 22.
The Malone backline strayed offside and a penalty was awarded, but Cormac Fox struck the post with his first kicking opportunity of the game and the score remained 0-11.
On 20 minutes, Armagh’s full back, Timmy McNeice cut through the Malone defence but the scoring pass to Neil Faloon was spilled. The big number 8 however, made amends five minutes later when he scored Armagh’s opening try.
Good continuity by the home team had brought play into the Malone 22 and Faloon burst through a static defence to score to the right of the posts. The conversion by Cormac Fox brought the scoreline to 7-11 and the young outhalf converted a penalty on 36 minutes to make the match a one point score at 10-11.
Malone responded with a threatening run from Ulster Academy full back, Jack Owens but Armagh scrambled back in defence to clear the danger.
As the half-time break approached, a Malone try looked on the cards but the final pass to winger Bryans went to ground.
The second half commenced with a repeat of the first with Malone exerting pressure in the Armagh 22 with second row Dalton showing his Ulster experience for Malone.
The home team infringed at a ruck and O’Conner stretched the Malone lead to 10-14 with 45 minutes played.
Malone went offside at the restart and Armagh kicked to the corner looking to respond with the next score.
The ball was spread wide but the Malone defence held firm. James Morton, Josh McKinley and Michael Hoey all carried the ball well and the pressure paid of with a penalty in front of the Malone posts on 51 minutes.
Quick thinking by number 8, Faloon saw him take a quick tap and dive over for a converted try.
Armagh now had the lead in the match for the first time at 17-14.
Both teams continued to run the ball at every opportunity which contributed to an entertaining game for the large crowd of spectators.
On 60 minutes Armagh introduced three subs who had all played under 18 rugby last season, Paul Mullen, Evan Crummie and Barry Finn and the three guys fitted in seamlessly.
As the game entered the final quarter, Armagh were enjoying ample possession in Malone territory and a penalty for a high tackle was converted by Fox to stretch the home team’s lead to 20-14.
An attacking scrum then saw centre, Josh Pentland break the Armagh line and O’Connor was denied his second try when the ball went forward a yard from the tryline.
Fox cleared to halfway and when Malone spilled the ball in midfield, Armagh surged into Malone territory with desperate defence from the visitors preventing a third Armagh try. Malone then did conceded a penalty and Fox made the scoreline 23-14 with five minutes plus injury time remaining.
On 78 minutes, a handling error from the visitors gave Armagh put in to a scrum on the Malone 22 and the young front row of Matthews, Hoey and Mullan won a penalty for Fox to put Armagh ahead 26-14 and a personal tally on the day of 6 successful kicks out of 7.
In the final minute Chris Colvin kicked a loose ball down the pitch but Pentland was back to recover for Malone and the visitors then scored the try of the day when they ran the ball from their 22 and good interplay saw second row Dalton cross for a consolation score.
The final whistle went with Armagh camped in the Malone 22 and the home team had run out deserved winners 26-19.
After the match, Willie Faloon was delighted his team had ended a poor run of results and he complimented the squad members such as Stephen Morton and Barry Finn who had stepped up from the seconds.
“We had four nineteen year olds finishing that match and our youth policy is clearly working in Armagh as we
endeavour to produce home grown talent for our future,” said Faloon.
“The whole club is thrilled to reach a Senior Cup final for the first time in 142 years and the whole of Armagh with be at the Kingspan for the final.”
Armagh Seconds step it up a gear
Instonians were the visitors to the Palace Grounds on Saturday to play the local seconds in a conference league game which Armagh had to win to maintain their position as league leaders of Ulster rugby Championship conference league one.
With several changes to the side due to 1st xv requirements on the front pitch, the seconds kicked off on a dull dry day with an Inst forward knocking on from the dropout.
Instonians were able to apply pressure to the Armagh scrum and the advantage was lost. Harry Boyd who was making his first appearance this season converted a 5th minute penalty.
Inst played their way into the home 22 and after a clever lineout move, their second row forward crashed over for a five pointer. On the restart Inst had possession on the half way when Pau Gimeno intercepted and raced off to touch down at the posts. Boyd converted and Armagh had regained the lead 10-5.
With both teams running the ball at every opportunity, further tries arrived including one for William Holden after a break by Misi and the Inst winger after a flowing backline move to the corner. Just before halftime, Pau broke up field to send Stuart Hooks on a run to the corner for another unconverted try, half time score Armagh 20, Instonians 12.
On the restart and with the spectators expecting more of the same, sure enough the home backs worked Kyle Faloon clear to score at the posts on 43minutes with Boyd adding the points.
Inst retorted with a positional kick to the corner only for the home fullback to knock on.
From the ensuing scrum, the Inst fullback went blind and put the Inst winger over at the corner, 27-17 to Armagh. With Carlisle, Andrew Morton and John Fletcher carrying well, the home side found themselves in Inst territory and after a reset scrum, Kennedy and McNeice drove for the line and when stopped, Misi nipped in to gather and touch down at the posts.
Slack play by the home side let Inst in for two quick scores to close the gap to 34-29. A straight forward Boyd penalty on 69 minutes settled the nerves and shortly after, great inter play from Pau, Hooks and McKeever put Boyd in the clear for another try. Straight from the restart a flowing move from half way ended with Faloon coasting down the line for a converted try to finish the scoring.
Final score Armagh 54, Instonians 29.
Lisburn Thirds 12 City of Armagh Fourths 14
City of Armagh fourth fifteen travelled to Lisburn on Saturday in a rich vein of form having not tasted defeat so far this season.
Armagh who lost the toss had to kick off and did not get off to the best start. The Lisburn lads attacked and for the largest part of it the Armagh defence stood strong. A gap in the Armagh rearguard saw a great run by the full-back towards the line. The hosts had a man over and touched down in the corner. The conversion attempt from the sideline struck the upright and bounced back in field.
Armagh were trailing their opponents by five points inside the first ten minutes and things went from bad to worse when our own full-back, John Johnston had to depart the field due to injury.
Indeed Armagh could have conceded a second try only for a few last ditch tackles by winger Colm Campbell and makeshift replacement full back, Gareth Graham who between them managed to quell the initial attack and hold the ball up over the line.
From the resulting scrum Armagh made inroads up the field through a few successive picks by Number Eight, Joe Clarke and fellow back row player, Andrew Pogue saw Armagh break into the Lisburn half of the field for the first time in the encounter.
A couple of blistering runs from centres, Michael O’Neill and Timothy McBride was enough to get Armagh inside the Lisburn 22m line and from there it was easy for McBride who resisted the efforts of a few Lisburn players to navigate his way across the whitewash. The conversion was added by David Loughran to give Armagh a narrow lead.
In what was already a physical encounter Armagh had incurred their second injury of the game, this time to Stuart Agnew to a suspected dislocated knee. A quick re-shuffle of the Armagh team seemed to sort things out and Armagh picked up where he left off attacking the Lisburn line.
Armagh were rewarded with a penalty shortly afterwards as a result of the Lisburn lads persistent indiscipline at the ruck. Armagh opted to go for the posts with the penalty just outside the 22m line. The kick was narrowly missed by Loughran and the referee blew his whistle signalling the end of the first half.
Half Time Score: Lisburn 3XV (05) – v – City of Armagh 4XV (07)
Unfortunately the second half started much like the first half with Lisburn running in for their second try of the afternoon within minutes of the play resuming. A ball was kicked deep down field and knocked-on. From the scrum the ball was run through a few players and a quick switch play saw the Lisburn centre in for their second try of the day under the posts. This one was successfully converted to return the lead to the hosts.
The Armagh forwards continued to gain ground in the opposition half, replacement Robert Nicholl in particular was causing the Lisburn lads all sorts of problems. The Armagh set-pieces were amazing all afternoon with Adam Hume stealing countless balls at the lineouts.
The lads patiently kept chipping away at the Lisburn defence and they were rewarded for their efforts. Just inside the opposition 22m line in front of the left hand post there was a ruck formed with Joe Clarke forming one of the pillars. Clarke spotted an opening, picked he ball from the bottom of the ruck and proceeded to spin through the Lisburn defence and run in for Armagh’s second try. The conversion was added by Loughran to give Armagh a narrow two point lead once more going into the final fifteen minutes of the encounter.
Both sides were desperate not to lose this game and fought tooth and nail to the bitter end. It was the hosts who looked better value for the win, however this Armagh team refused to lie down and their defence was impeccable.
The lads saw out a nervous final five minutes to record their fifth win on the bounce and remain in the driving seat to win the Southern section of the Ulster Rugby Minor Leagues with just a single game remaining.
Armagh 4XV have a hectic few weeks coming up, first up the lads will make the short trip across to Chambers Park in Portadown next weekend for the highly anticipated derby match against Portadown 4XV.
The following week will see them in McCambley Cup action with their opponents yet to be decided with the draw scheduled to take place on Tuesday night.
This young team continues to go from strength to strength, they have a gritty determination in them and have shown they are prepared to die with their boots on and fight to the bitter end. No doubt this is something that will be equally as visible through the coming two weekends.