Boyne 18 City of Armagh 20
Following their convincing 37-6 win against Queens University last fixture, Armagh again travelled South into Leinster with an air of confidence to play their eleventh game in the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League of the season.
Having won eight of these games and losing three they occupy third spot, if somewhat precariously.
Those three defeats may still haunt them before the end of the season as the are dangerously short of match-winning bonus points.
Although they are on similar match wins as second place Tullamore they have secured seven match winning bonus points to Armagh’s solitary one point! When the last game of the season comes to a close this gap may well be crucial!
Saturday’s game kicked off in bright, if brisk, conditions with a stiff breeze at the backs of the home side. As if by magic this spell of sunshine changed in the first moments of the game to what could only be described as a blizzard!
There was rain, snow, sleet, and a biting wind now at the backs of the Boyne team. Their out-half took full advantage of this phenomenon and kept pinning a struggling Armagh defence back inside their ’22’.
Eventually Armagh were penalised for failing to release a ball after a tackle and the home number 8, Mark Keogh, stepped up to take the kick from inside his own half.
The kick was right on target to put Armagh 3-0 down. Just two minutes later a similar infringement saw Keogh send another fine kick between the Armagh posts.
To add to their worries Armagh’s defence was breached by some casual tackling which enabled Boyne to score what appeared the simplest of tries.
Unfortunately for Boyne their kicker was forced to leave the field with a leg injury and the conversion, in this case, went wide!
But with a 11-0 scoreline and a rampant Boyne attack with an equally vocal support from the touch-line Armagh had a real mountain to climb if they had any desire to win this game!
Just before the break the maturity of Armagh began to show and they began to show that they had the ability to restore their dented confidence.
They began to dominate the scrums an seemed able to hold on to the ball when using their backs. But it was up front, in the forwards, where the revival showed most as scrum after scrum went to Armagh.
This eventually resulted in Neil Faloon forcing his way over for one of his signature tries from the back of a ruck. Andrew Magowan kicked the conversion to narrow the score to 11-7 at the break.
The conditions seemed to play right into Boyne’s hand in the second half in that the wind,rain,snow,sleet etc. had all died away and Armagh had no wind at their backs like Boyne had in the first half. At this stage of the game it was seen that Armagh were beginning to take control of both set pieces and open play.
Two penalty kicks from Andrew Magowan edged them ahead 11-13 but when Manihera Eden broke through a Boyne tackle he was able to feed the ball out to Robbie Faloon on the left wing to send hin in for Armagh’s second try. Again Andrew Magowan’s conversion was on target to set the score at 11-20.
This seemed to seal the game in Armagh’s favour. Boyne, however, never gave up and their full-back, Eoghan Duffy sailed through some more slack Armagh defence to score a fine try.
The Boyne out-half, Tyler Lansdowne’s conversion narrowed the score to a nail-biting 18-20 with four minutes play remaining!
By the end of play Armagh had managed to preserve this narrow margin and we’re glad to return home with the four league points! This meant that they still hold on to third league spot!
It still remains somewhat of a mystery as to how or why can this side put in tremendous performances against the likes of Queens, Ballymena, or Malone!
Yet when it comes to teams in the lower echelons of the All-Ireland League they appear to make hard work screwing a narrow win out of the encounter!
Armagh inflict heavy defeat on Ards seconds
Armagh seconds played Ards in a second fifteen league fixture on Saturday at the palace grounds.
It was only 6 minutes into the game when good support play by Joe Coventry earned him an early try at the posts. With the conversion by Matthew Steenson, the home side led 7-0.
Shortly after when Ards were attacking Armagh’s 22, a loose pass by one of the Ards’s backs was gathered by Paul Campbell who set off on a 60 metre race to score at the posts for another converted try, 14-0 to Armagh.
With Timmy McNeice showing his class on the wing, the home backline were able to create several more scoring chances which led to tries from John Fletcher, Coventry and Steenson.
Two of these scores were converted by Steenson to bring the half time score to 33-0. In the second half, the home side continued in the same vein. Armagh were not having their own way in the scrums as the big Ards forwards were able to pressurise the home put in. However with David Spratt, centres Elliott and Matty Campbell and fullback Robbie Thompson in the backline, more tries were to follow.
Again good support play by Coventry saw him touch down for his hatrick try converted by Steenson. Straight from the dropout, Captain Oliver took a clean catch and set off on a race into unknown territory and when stopped at the visitors 22, the ball was moved quickly left for Peter Elliott to score at the posts.
On 60 minutes Prop Kurtis Sherry finished off a series of drives by the forwards close to the try line. The final score came after some enterprising play by backs and forwards which led to Steenson putting a delightful crossfield kick to the corner flag where Timmy McNeice caught a low ball and dived for the line in one action.
With a superb conversion by Steenson, the referee brought the game to an early close with the final score being Armagh 57, Ards 0. A good performance by the seconds which will set them up for some tougher games ahead
Armagh 3rds Go For Glory
City of Armagh 3rd XV continued their quest for silverware on Saturday. Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the previous two rounds, there was a determination in the squad that this Quarter-final of the Forster Cup would not go down to the wire.
Ards 3rds started the match in dominant form and had territorial and possession advantage for the first quarter of the match. Armagh’s defense stood firm and, in truth, their line was not really threatened. On Armagh’s first visit to Ards’ half they won a penalty on the 10mtr line. Young outhalf, Kyle Faloon, decided to take on the huge kick and his effort sneaked over the bar for a 3-0 lead. Faloon was to extend the lead 10 minutes later from a slightly closer penalty. With the first half nearing an end, Armagh’s fullback, Allen, burst through the Ards’ defense, took play up to the 5mtr line and, as the Ards’ fullback committed himself to the tackle, Allen’s offload sent the supporting Bingham in for the unconverted try. Halftime 11-0.
The second half got under way with Ards again dominating territory. This time Armagh’s line would be breached as an attempt to run the ball out of the 22 was picked off for an intercept try. 11-5. Five minutes later there was almost a carbon copy score as Armagh continued to play too much Rugby in their own red zone. Allen’s fine tackle rescued his team and a few stern words from Captain Girvan galvanised his side and Ards would not threaten again.
Armagh stamped their authority on the remainder of the game and a galloping converted score under the posts, by Conn McGillan, sealed the contest. Armagh went on to score again, leaving the final score 23-5.
Armagh 3rds now top their league and are semi-finalists in the cup. The last two months of the season will be very interesting as glory beckons!
Armagh Fourths 0 Malone Fourths 18
The City of Armagh 4th XV took the field for the first time in 2015 following a lengthy absence as a result of a series of league fixtures being called off due to declining weather conditions and teams being unable to field. Although you would not have been able to tell this from looking at the game and this is testament to the hard work carried out by the guys at their training during this period.
A large downpour before the game resulted in a greasy ball and heavy conditions underfoot this contributed to poor handling by both teams in the early stages of the encounter.It was the visitors who drew first blood when they converted a penalty in front of the posts following some indiscipline by the Armagh forwards at the breakdown. Possession was traded between the two teams several times for the next ten minutes or so with no team able to gain the upper hand due to both defences performing admirably.
Malone then had a man sin-binned for a stamping offence on Armagh prop Robert Dougan, he was extremely lucky he only received a yellow card for his misdemeanour. The hosts had a few good charges during the next ten minutes including some great attacking runs from the returning fullback William Armstrong and debutant Glenn Hawthorne. The best chance of the first half fell to Phil Mills which saw him just metres shy of the line following some quick thinking from a penalty where he caught the Malone defence sleeping.
Despite the numerical advantage Armagh failed to capitalise on the opportunity. With the Malone flanker reinstated Armagh were put under sustained pressure and after a few frantic clearances the first half action was brought to a close. Half Time Score: Armagh 0 Malone 3
Armagh kicking off the second half put Malone under pressure right from the off, the ball was knocked on by one of their pack and Matthew Heaney opted to kick into the corner. Armagh now saw them with a great chance to put some points on the board with a lineout in the red zone.
Unfortunately the ball was stolen and the visitors proceeded to work the ball up the field with some strong runs from their open side flanker. The Armagh defence was spread and Malone crossed in the corner for the first try of the game.
The conversion was scored and that left the scores at 10-0 to Malone with about five minutes gone in the second half. With a large chunk of the game still remaining the lads heads did not drop they continued to attack, another powerful run by William Armstrong saw him deep inside the opponents 22 evading the tackles of several of the Malone defenders.
William proceeded to offload the ball to the oncoming winger David Loughran who could taste the chalk he was that close to the line, only for him to knock the ball forward and foil arguably Armagh’s greatest chance of the game. From the resulting scrum some indiscipline set in after the ball was released which saw the ball turned over.
A series of quick tap and goes saw prop Eoin O’Hagan falling inches short of the line, Eoin received a nasty boot to the face for his troubles which the referee dually noted and gave the perpetrator a red card from his second act of unsportsmanlike conduct of the day.
Armagh finally crossed the line through James Gribben only for the ball to have been held up by the resilient Malone defence. Malone worked their way up the field and the hosts conceded a rather harsh penalty in a kickable position, however the penalty was struck against the post and justice was done.
The ball was run up the field through Centre Ryan Murray only for the ball to be turned over following a lack of support once he hit the ground. Malone opted to run the ball through their backs and they were gaining serious yards and were rewarded for their efforts with the second try of the game, however it was not an easy try with the host’s defence preventing them from crossing the line time after time.
They could only last for so long and eventually one of their props crawled over the line. Thankfully the resulting conversion dropped short. The spirit of the Armagh lads did not relent they continued to take the game to the visitors, soon however Armagh themselves were reduced to 14 men only temporarily though when Robert Dougan was binned for a second offence at the breakdown following a stern warning by the referee after the first occasion.
Armagh decided to mix it up a little with nothing to lose bringing a kicking game into the contest and it nearly worked to great effect when Fly-Half Matthew Heaney provided a delightful grubber kick to the corner and Captain David Loughran was nearly in again only for his opposite number to kick the ball to touch.
Malone won the line out and again moved the ball through their backs and one of them was released through the centre of the Armagh defence a superb tackle by fullback William Armstrong prevented a near certain try. Tempers began to flare between both teams and the referee used this as a great chance to call the game to a halt. Full Time Armagh 0 Malone 18
Unfortunately this saw the end of Armagh’s participation in the cup for this year and any realistic chance of silverware slipping away from them with their league position somewhat off the pacesetters.
Whilst a lot of people will have looked at this fixture with fear following the defeat in which Malone 5s inflicted on the lads earlier in the year, all of the players can hold their heads high as they battled for the entire 80 minutes and were rather unlucky not to score a couple of tries themselves.
Indeed on another day the result of this fixture could have easily been reversed. Best on the day for Armagh were Matthew Heaney, William Armstrong, Phil Mills and Eoin O’Hagan.