Old Belvedere RFC 29 City of Armagh RFC 5
City of Armagh travelled to Old Belvedere last Saturday knowing that they had a hard task ahead of them with four props unavailable and their two hookers both injured.
Jack Treanor and John Clarke were making their debuts in the front row and Armagh knew they had to start off well. This they didn’t do and from a box kick which wasn’t chased, Belvedere counter attacked from their own 22 and several phases later and after a few missed tackles, scrum half O’Beirne dived over under the posts for a converted try.
Two minutes gone and Armagh were 7 points down. Armagh couldn’t string a number of phases together and it was no real surprise when they went further behind after 14 minutes when Belvo captain Crosbie, scythed through weak Armagh tackling to put Eddie Rossiter through for another score, this time not converted.
Fourteen minutes gone and Armagh 12 points down. Any momentum that Armagh tried to get in the game was thwarted by a very resolute defence by Belvedere who very quickly snuffed out carries by Neil Faloon, Nigel Simpson and James Hanna. Coupled with this, was the fact that Armagh were almost always on the back foot and got on the wrong side of the referee in giving away 8 penalties in the first half.
They could therefore get no territorial advantage and the home playmaker and captain Steve Crosbie further exploited Armagh’s weakness by cutting through the defence, this time on the inside and putting the visitors further behind with a converted try.
30 minutes gone and Armagh down 19 points. Yet another penalty conceded by the visitors resulted in another 3 points for Crosbie on the stroke of half time and the home side had an impressive lead, 22-0 at the interval.
A stern half time talk from Phil Pollock and Dave Eakin, standing in for Willie Faloon and Chris Parker, seemed to do the trick and Armagh had a much better second half. The Old Belvedere hooker was yellow carded early in the half for a late no arms tackle on Shea O’Brien which many Armagh supporters felt could have been red.
In fact Belvedere went down to 13 men when a dangerous tackle on Neil Faloon also saw the referee again produce a yellow card.
This was the time for Armagh to make use of their numerical advantage but they constantly knocked on close to the Belvedere line when a bit more composure might have got them some reward.
The story of the second half was knock on after knock on, coupled with the fact that Belvederes’ defence was very solid. Armagh
also had to chase the game and continued to make mistakes allowing Crosbie to thread a ball through the Armagh defence for the final nail in the coffin, a try for Keating.
29 points down going into the last quarter could have seen Armagh completely blown away, but to their credit they continued to try and play some rugby and Shea O Brien got on the end of some enterprising three quarter play to get a consolation score in the final moments of the match. With Cormac Fox off the field, Shea couldn’t convert and the final score was 29 -5 to Old Belvedere.
Were there any positives about this game? Not really. The front row of Mullan, Treanor and Clarke held their own despite the fact that there were three scrum penalties. Mullan as usual carried well and Treanor’s lineout throwing and loose play was good.
When Simon Carlile and Mathew Nelson came on they both held their own. In the second row McKinley and Starrett worked hard against bigger men in the line-out and the back row of Hanna , Simpson and Faloon couldn’t really get a foothold in the game.
When James Morton came on just before half time his experience and passion helped the side. With little forward ball, the backs struggled all day and to gain any momentum and all would probably agree that they were second best on the day.
In Crosbie and Keating, Old Belvedere had outstanding players who have both played at a higher level and their class showed.
As a result of this, and other results, City of Armagh drop down the table from third to seventh, still only 6 points behind leaders Old Wesley but just 2 ahead of Buccaneers in 9th position.
In a very tight league, they are still not safe from relegation, but also only 2 points off a play off position. With home advantage to come against Ballymena, St Mary’s and Ballynahinch, it is important to pick up points to ensure that the side stays in Division
Next up this Saturday for City of Armagh, is a home fixture with Ballymena at the Palace Grounds and the coaches will be looking for some good news on the injury front.