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Cork trip yields little for City of Armagh but seconds progress to Junior Cup final

Highfield RFC 21 City of Armagh RFC 13 Report by Richard Black

City of Armagh made the long journey to Cork on Saturday only to return with nothing to show for their efforts.

A try four minutes from time denied the visitors a losing bonus point.

The tactics deployed were to run the big Highfield pack around the park, to still be in the game after 60 minutes and then the side’s fitness would kick in for the last 20 minutes. Most of this went according to plan, except for the final 10 minutes.

Captain Robbie Whitten lost the toss and it wasn’t a surprise when Highfield elected to play up the hill in the first half. Cormac Fox kicked off in dismal conditions and for the first five minutes Armagh attacked but couldn’t break through a resolute defence.

The penalty count began to creep up with Highfield kicking to the corner. Surprisingly they lost the first three lineouts and could not get a foothold in the game.

Armagh’s defence was brilliant though and the visitors were able to neutralise the attack of Highfield. It was Armagh that took the lead through the boot of Cormac Fox when he chipped over a simple penalty. Highfield had two great chances to score but their final passes were dropped and Armagh survived.

Highfield then sorted out their lineout problems and stepped up their assault on the Armagh line only for heroic defence to hold out. Something had to give however and it was little surprise that Highfield got back into the game with a converted try after 30 minutes. With JJ Scheepers and Neil Faloon carrying well, Highfield themselves started to give away penalties and when they strayed off side, Fox reduced the margin to one point coming up to halftime.

Unfortunately, in the second half the number of penalties conceded by Armagh meant they couldn’t get any real field position and with the Armagh pack struggling at times in the scrum, out half Shane O’Riordan stretched Highfield’s lead with 2 more penalties.

At 13-6 down after an hour’s play, one would have feared further scores being conceded. Cormac Fox had different ideas though and after good hands from Phil Fletcher, the outhalf squeezed through the tightest of gaps and side stepped the full back to sprint in under the posts for a fine individual try.

At 13-13 it was still anybody’s game and Armagh would have settled for the 2 points. Just in the same way as in the Old Belvedere fixture, their luck ran out and when referee Cillan Hogan awarded Highfield a 40 metre penalty for holding on in the tackle. O’Riordan edged the home sides ahead 16-13.

Armagh had one further chance to score, but for the only time in the match, their lineout failed and the chance was lost. With the referee losing patience another scrum penalty was awarded and Paul Mullen was yellow carded 4 minutes from the end. Armagh had still the opportunity of a losing bonus point but again another scrum penalty near the end resulted in a driving maul close to the Armagh line. Highfield drove over the line to seal their victory.

Armagh’s pack stood up to the heavier Highfield pack except in giving away 5 scrum penalties. The lineout functioned well all day except for the last one but they lost some ball at the breakdown. The backs tackled like demons and showed some attacking promise but the whole team and coaches left Cork very disappointed. With all the other results going against City of Armagh, they find themselves in a difficult position in the league and looking over their shoulder.

Next up for City of Armagh is a home derby game this Saturday, against Malone and the team would ask for more local support to get the team back on the winning trail.

City of Armagh Seconds 33 Carrickfergus 1st XV 18

Saturday 30th November 2019

Report by Evan Morton

City of Armagh Second XV reached the final of the Miller McCall Wylie Junior Cup after defeating Carrickfergus RFC in an entertaining semi-final at the Palace Grounds on Saturday. The team will now play Enniskillen in the final on January 7th at the Kingspan Stadium, their second final in three years.

On a bright, sunny afternoon, Armagh kicked off towards the city end and the visitors made their first foray into Armagh territory. The home made an early turnover and then won a penalty just inside the Carrick half. Outhalf, Harry Boyd took a long range attempt at goal but his kick from 45 metres was narrowly wide. The home were dominating possession in the early stages but it was Carrick who got on the scoreboard first when the home side were penalised on their 22. Outhalf Adam White made no mistake and the visitors were 0-3 ahead on 13 minutes.

Armagh responded with good interplay to take play up to the Carrick 22. Centre Stuart Lester carried well and good continuity had Carrick defending their tryline. The Armagh pack made some good drives and hooker Jack Treanor, reached through a pile of bodies to score the opening try of the match. The conversion was unsuccessful but the home side had edged ahead 5-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The visitors went straight back on the attack and an Armagh handling error gave Carrick a 5 metre scrum. The ball was moved swiftly to the right and full back McKeown was stopped just short. The ball was recycled and Ryan McGonigle charged over for a great score. The conversion was missed but Carrick now led 5-8 with 25 minutes played.

Armagh stepped up a gear and a penalty for offside was kicked down the line. The lineout was secured and scrum half Alex Johnston swiftly moved play to midfield. Team captain, John Faloon then took a crash ball and broke the tackle to score to the left of the posts. With 32 minutes on the clock, Boyd’s conversion edged Armagh ahead 12-8.

From the restart, veteran James Morton broke clear but the supporting player knocked on giving Carrick an attacking scrum. The visitors looked to capitalise and with first half injury time being played, they were awarded a penalty in front of the Armagh posts. Adam White converted and the halftime whistle went with underdogs, Carrick, well in the game at 12-11.

Carrick got the second half underway in this evenly balanced encounter but an early penalty saw Armagh back on the offensive in Carrick territory. Daryl Morton was prominent in the loose play but the Carrick defence was well marshalled. From a lineout on the Carrick 22, Armagh spread the ball and full back Glenn Faloon was close to scoring but was stopped a yard short. Armagh’s attempt to recycle quickly was disrupted illegally by Carrick and the referee awarded the home side a penalty.

Quick thinking by hooker, Jack Treanor saw him tap the ball and drive over from close range for his second try of the match with 47 minutes played. A superb touchline conversion from Harry Boyd saw Armagh stretch their lead to 19-11.

Aaron White and David Spratt joined the action for Armagh as they sought to stretch the Carrick defence. Second row Ollie Miller made a super break from halfway and good support saw play continue deep into the Carrick 22. An Armagh knock on let Carrick clear their line but the momentum was clearly with the home team. From an attacking lineout on 53 minutes, forwards and backs linked well and when the supporting Treanor received the ball, the hooker made a lovely burst to  cross for his hat trick of tries. Boyd converted from in front of the posters and City of Armagh were now comfortably ahead, 26-11.

As play moved into the final quarter, Carrick refused to lie down and their lively scrum half took a quick tap penalty to keep Armagh on their toes. Ollie Miller made another trademark line break and it looked like Armagh were set for another score but a knock on saw the opportunity lost.

Mervyn Brown took to the field following a lengthy absence due to injury and the centre slotted in seamlessly with John Faloon taking a rest.

On 65 minutes David Agnew who had looked lively on the wing all day, interlinked with Glenn Faloon and the full back had a clear run to the line. The referee however adjudged the final pass was forward and Carrick were let off the hook.

Carrick then had a good attacking spell instigated by Armagh being penalised for a high tackle.

From the attacking lineout Armagh gave away another needless penalty and Carrick opted for another lineout. The ball was moved to midfield and centre Brian Alexander crashed over for a deserved Carrick try. A successful conversion by Shane Kelly made the scoreline 26-18 with 8 minutes remaining on the clock.

Armagh however were to finish strongly. Carrick looked to run the ball out of their 22 but conceded a lineout to Armagh 8 metres out. The Armagh pack who had been playing well all day then controlled possession through well executed pick and drives. The pressure on the Carrick defence finally brought its reward when flanker Harry Ferguson powered over for Armagh’s fifth try of the match. Harry Boyd completed a fine game with the boot to nail the conversion and the final whistle went with City of Armagh victorious 33-18.

This was an impressive performance by the Seconds with Jack Treanor at hooker remarkably contributing three tries to Armagh’s total. Credit also to the Carrickfergus side who contributed to a competitive match

Second’s coach Davy Eakin, was delighted at the final whistle. “We are pleased to have reached another Junior Cup final and getting our hands on the silverware will prove to be a major challenge. We knew Carrick would be tough opponents today and they caused us lots of problems in that first half. Credit to our boys for taking their chances and five tries was a good reward.”

City of Armagh Seconds now turn their attention back to the Conference League, where two bonus point wins from their last two fixtures will see the team crowned champions again. The first of these is the toughest fixture, way to Grosvenor this Saturday.

City of Armagh 3rds 22 Clogher Valley 2nds 19

Friday 29th November 2019

Report by Trevor Knipe

It was business as usual for City of Armagh Thirds as they took on Clogher Valley Seconds at the Palace Grounds on a chilly Friday night. From the off, Armagh looked like a renewed side after last week’s poor showing in Bangor. With the Fourths also playing at the same time and some players out through injury, captain Andy Brady was forced to make some late player changes with Tom Johnstons brother Jack on the bench and Paddy Chapman starting at prop.

The sides were evenly matched but an early penalty for Armagh was successfully taken by Andrew Knipe for a 3-0 lead. The Clogher Valley pack were strong and aggressive but conceded several penalties for smothering the ball and not releasing. It was from one of these penalties, quickly taken by Trevor Girvan, that Armagh got their first try when Tom Johnston powered his way to the line. The conversion by Knipe took the score to 10-0 within ten minutes. 

Clogher Valley posed a real threat each time they got close to the Armagh try line. Armagh defended resolutely, but sometimes illegally until referee Paul Baxter finally penalised them with a penalty try to narrow the gap to 3 points. Clogher Valley closed out the first half with a second push over try and conversion to take a 4 point lead into the second half.

The restart saw Clogher kick the ball straight into the arms of Adam Edgar who made some yards before passing out to Adam Magowan on the wing. He evaded the Valley defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but Armagh had regained a slender lead. A second try from Magowan, this time converted, gave Armagh an eight point lead and meant Clogher Valley had to score twice in the last ten minutes to win the match. They did manage one try from a pushover scrum but it was not enough and the match finished 22-19 in Armaghs favour. 

This was a very close and entertaining game which was played in good spirit and watched by a good crowd of Armagh and Clogher Valley spectators. The result means that Armagh return to second place in Provincial League 2. 

With no match next week the next big challenge comes on Saturday 14th December when the side travel to take on Ballymoney Seconds in the second round of the Crawford Cup.

City of Armagh: A Edgar, T Henry, P Chapman, W Martin, J Gilpin, R Morris, R Shilliday, 

T Johnston, T Girvan, A Knipe, A Magowan, D Reynolds, A Brady, R Finlay, A Winder, 

J Johnston.

Scorers: Tom Johnston (try), Adam Magowan (2 tries), Andrew Knipe (2 conv, pen).

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