Donaghadee 2nd XV 13-0 Ballymena 4th XV (10/12/2009)
This match saw several 'firsts' for Donaghadee Rugby Club: the first match to be played at Donaldson Park under the floodlights, and the first match for the club's Second XV to be played in their new kits - kindly supplied and presented to the team by Jason Wright from Total Van Solutions.
Those who turned up to watch this match witnessed an engaging spectacle, characterised by poor visibility, no shortage of commitment, lots of front-up tackling and a strong and determined will to win by Donaghadee’s 2nd XV. Right from the offset Richard Gullen, receiving the Ballymena kick-off, collected the ball well and, head down, made straight for the oncoming chasers. Finding several team-mates in support, Donaghadee met the Ballymena defence, drove forward and recycled ball well; this first encounter typifying much of what was to follow for 80 minutes.
Early on, Ballymena conceded a penalty 35-40 metres directly in front of their posts. Big Red, otherwise known as Adam Lowry, had no hesitation in attempting a long range effort, duly dispatching this penalty and gratefully accepting the 3 points on offer to his team. Soon afterwards, roundabout the ten minute mark, some poor handling and indecision by Ballymena led to veteran scrum-half Nick Lord kicking a loose ball forward and leading the chase for possession. Some good work led to 'The Butcher' diving across the crisply marked white line in the corner and touching down for the game's only try. After the game, Noel Angus asked this writer to remind one and all that he has a number of Christmas specials on offer, including his award winning sausages and the customary turkey.
Lowry now faced the most difficult of conversions for a right footed kicker - from a yard inside the right hand touchline. With the sweetest of connections, the ball started marginally right before curling around to dissect the posts. 10-0 to Donaghadee.
Ballymena were here to play rugby and ran at Donaghadee with a vengeance following their soft start. Several times they appeared to have created a score, but were let down by a combination of poor handling and a slippery ball, while on many other occasions they were frustrated at the defence mustered by Donaghadee. Both sides put together a number of phases time after time, mixing powerful driving by their forwards with some cutting runs from their backs; watching from the sidelines one member of the club's first fifteen was heard exclaiming that "the seconds are putting more phases together than we do!”
Some powerful running into contact by Andrew Dunn, Gavin Prue and Richard Martindale - the latter who also used his cultured left boot to good effect on several occasions - caused Ballymena all sorts of problems, while aggressive and committed tackling and a number of turnovers ensured that this game went the way of Donaghadee – Darragh O’Byrne and Paul Hamilton in particular proving to be very apt in winning turnover ball.
The remainder of the game saw only one more score - a 3rd successful kick from a penalty by Lowry (who finished with an impressive 3 from 4) - but this was not down to the quality of the rugby on offer. While the fog descended and left the many spectators who had braved the December chill unable to view proceedings at the far side of the pitch, the stepping and pace of the Donaghadee backs oftentimes defied the heavy conditions underfoot, while the game management of Bailey, Rodgers and Lowry continually pegged Ballymena back. Superb work at the breakdown created a number of 'steals' for Donaghadee and on the occasions when Ballymena threatened, the Dee recovered well and cleared their lines.
Against a large, mobile and well-drilled Ballymena pack, the grizzled Donaghadee forwards held their own in the scrum, while a combination of Richard Martindale and import Darragh O'Bryne contrived to win line-out ball from Ballymena throws on a number of occasions. In the backs, only scrum-half Nick Lord defied the trend of a young and blisteringly quick back line. Time after time after time, these younger guys hit the opposition hard in the tackle and when presented with the chance to show their gas, sprinted around the opposition to create space.
A fast flowing game that was played in a great spirit by both teams finished at 13-0 to the hosts. The seconds have now won two in a row, and in the space of 5 days have beaten two strong sides in Coleraine and Ballymena. A win against Ballymena in particular is a rare thing, and this victory was rightly savoured.
Donaghadee 2nd XV was: Marcus Gibson, Anthony Bunting Jnr, Adam Lowry, Adam Rodgers, Andrew Lennon, Richard Bailey, Nick Lord; Richard Gullen, Paul Hamilton, Noel Angus, Marcus Nelson, Andrew Dunn (c), Richard Martindale, Darragh O'Byrne, Gavin Prue.
Donaghadee Rugby Club would like to thank Total Van Solutions for the generous support in the provision of a new kit for the club's 2nd XV
Back Row: Jason Wright (Total Van Solutions), Ian Fleming (Manager), Paddy Quinn, Richard Gullen, Adam Rodgers, Paul Hamilton, Richard Martindale, Andrew Dunn, Marcus Nelson, Pete McQuillan, Arthur Brown, Gavin Prue, Noel Angus, David Monson (Chairman).
Front Row: Adam Lowry, Marcus Gibson, Nick Lord, Dickie Bailey, Pete Stevenson (C), Darragh O’Byrne, Andy Lennon, Anthony Bunting Jnr. Gavin Wallace, Andy Monson (Club Captain).
Presentation picture shows from left: Jason Wright (TVS), Ian Fleming (Manager), Pete Stevenson (Seconds' Captain).