Following their disappointment at not getting a victory the previous week at Ballynahinch, City of Armagh made no mistake in getting maximum league points when unbeaten Malone visited the Palace Grounds on Saturday.
The home team got off to a dream start with two converted tries in the first 8 minutes while the bonus point score came with the final play of the match.
With number 8 Neil Faloon still injured, Ryan O’Neill started his first senior match and scrum half Harry Doyle returned from injury.
Malone kicked off in perfect autumnal conditions and Armagh quickly brought play into Malone territory and were awarded a penalty on four minutes when the visitors strayed offside.
Armagh kicked to touch and their confidence was rewarded when hooker Andrew Smyth was driven over for the game’s opening try. Outhalf Cormac Fox added the points for 7-0 lead.
From the restart, Armagh put some attacking phases together and second row Josh McKinley stretched over for a try following pressure in the Malone 22. Fox was successful with the conversion and the home team led 14-0.
Malone responded with their first attack of the match and were awarded a penalty on 14 minutes. Full back Jack Milligan converted the lick to open the visitor’s account, 14-3.
Playing with a high tempo, Armagh continued to dominate the early stages and a penalty on 23 minutes for offside saw Fox increase Armagh’s lead to 17-3.
Malone then had a spell of pressure in the Armagh 22 after kicking a penalty into the corner.
Armagh were penalised for pulling down the maul but a turnover at the next phase saw the home side clear their lines.
The Orchard County side were getting on the wrong side of the referee with a number penalties conceded and three minutes before the break Armagh’s Robert Whitten was sent to the sin-bin after the referee’s patience wore out.
Malone elected for a scrum but were then penalised for an illegal drive letting Armagh off the hook.
Another penalty was kicked to touch by Malone as halftime approached and this time Armagh stole the lineout. Within a minute they repeated the steal and Armagh’s defence held firm as the halftime whistle went with the home team holding on to an impressive 17-3 lead.
The second half started with an early penalty for Malone but again Armagh were able to turn over possession from the lineout.
The third quarter had little continuity with frequent penalties disrupting the flow. Malone were struggling to get a foothold in Armagh territory and a handling error led to an Armagh counter attack. Malone’s Milligan infringed and was given a yellow card with Fox kicking the 30 metre penalty to stretch Armagh’s lead to 20-3 on 58 minutes.
Good tackling play from Armagh kept Malone at bay as the match moved into the last quarter. Malone kicked a number of penalties down the line but were unable to break down a resolute Armagh defence.
Into the last 5 minutes and Malone were camped on the Armagh line with their pack looking to drive over for a score. Armagh defenced heroically and a turnover saw them break out to half way.
Malone then had a defensive mix up following a box kick from Doyle with McNeice and Purvis creating pressure and flanker Nigel Simpson touched down for Armagh’s third try. The conversion was missed but Armagh now
led 25-3 with a minute on the clock.
From the restart, Armagh captain Chris Colvin intercepted a Malone pass and the visitors gave away a penalty from the ruck. Deep in injury time, the kick went to the corner, Armagh secured possession and unbelievably, the pack drove over for the bonus point try.
Replacement hooker Pete Lamb got the touchdown and Fox kicked the conversion from the touchline to complete a superb performance from the Armagh side, winning 32-3 as the referee blew for full-time.
The club coaching team were delighted with the result which elevated City of Armagh to third place in the league table.
Coach Willie Faloon commented: “Our defensive effort was massive and getting those early scores settled any nerves. Our error count was really low today which pleased me although the high number of penalties conceded is something we will have to improve on”.
Next up for Armagh on Saturday is a difficult away trip to Dublin to play St Mary’s College.
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