“It’s six miles from Donaghadee”, says the old song. It is actually only 3½ miles from Uprichard Park, Bangor to Donaldson Park, Donaghadee – arguably the closest of rugby neighbours in Ulster, apart of course from ground-sharers. The rugby supporters from the former drove this short distance from the former club to the latter last Saturday, hopefully to enjoy watching their own First Fifteen defeat old and close rivals Donaghadee in the Junior Cup. This inter-club rivalry has existed for an awesome 124 years to date, with the big 125th Anniversary coming up next year. This game was to be more than a cup tie. This would determine the bragging rights for any arranged contest to celebrate their impressive and co-incident century and a quarter next season. The day began with a fine lunch in the clubhouse, catered for by Posh Nosh and organised by Hans Arthur of Grace Neill’s.
From the moment Paul Blewitt kicked the game off the Donaghadee pack was rampant. Time and again for the first quarter-hour their totally co-ordinated eight repeatedly drove their less-organised rivals backwards. On occasion this retreat was so hurried that even the Donaghadee supporters were concerned for the safety of the Bangor men. The subsequent field-position advantage this domination gained for Donaghadee rewarded them with two kickable penalty opportunities. A bit worryingly Richard Millar was slightly off-target with otherwise well struck kicks.
In mid-field in this period there simply seemed no place for the Bangor backs to go on the sparse occasions when they were able to get the football, so tight was the Donaghadee defence. But the latter well knew that their territorial and scrummage advantages by now should have been registering on the scoreboard, yet so far were not. Chris Good had a word with his forwards and when they were awarded another penalty opportunity Donaghadee declined and took another scrum. This was an excellent decision, and suitably rewarded. Another beautifully concerted drive demanded all Bangor hands to the pumps to prevent the push-over try. At No. 8 David Thompson showed perfect patience and awareness as the Bangor line came closer, and at precisely the right time he struck. A smooth pick-up and charge took him the remaining two metres. Millar, after his heroics at Omagh the previous week, was having an unusually bad day with the boot. He missed narrowly again so the score was only 5-0. This try had been crucial, but, worryingly for the home supporters, maybe was insufficient reward for their twenty minutes supremacy.
Ten minutes later the scoreline fragility of Donaghadee’s lead was exposed. First they lost their right winger Gavin Gordon to the sin-bin on the half-hour. Almost immediately this numerical deficiency seemed to make a big difference. In a half so far almost devoid of Bangor possession of the football they gained it, and a small hole opened suddenly in the tight Donaghadee defence, and Bangor’s three-quarters were away. The ball was flicked inside to outside-half Jason Morgan who showed the ball left, and instantly shot it right, throwing the Donaghadee defenders on to the wrong foot, and resulting in a score at the foot of the posts. Even Bangor knew the score was against the run of play, but they made no mistake in gaining the extra two points to take a surprising lead of 7-5.
For the large Donaghadee contingent there was instant encouragement as they perceived the way the men and green re-assumed their determination. This was time for nitty-gritty football. No messing, no frivolities. Long-time servant Paul Blewitt has been there many times. Get field position, and then run the training paddock moves when you are in the red zone. Yet again he drilled a superb touch-kick down close toBangor’s right corner. All the Dee men knew the script. A beautifully accurate throw from Gareth Gordon found the soaring Richard Martindale at No. 2 at the top of his leap; the remaining seven were round him in a flash; the ball was smuggled back and the redoubtable Thompson was simply unstoppable. The touchline kick was just too far out for Millar, but Donaghadee were pleased to go into the interval a narrow 10-7 ahead.
The vulnerability of this slender lead was proved a few minutes into the new half. Just as the referee was signalling a stoppage a little hand-bagging broke out behind him. As the ref spun round what he and everyone else saw was a flailing arm in a red and green shirt. Deservedly this resulted in a Bangor penalty – a very kickable penalty, and one that went straight between the posts to level the scores 10-10.
One of the amateur timekeepers on the touchline reckoned that Donaghadee had had 70 minutes of possession and field position so far, but he was directed to look at the scoreboard – the only thing that counts. On the touchline, fingers came out of gloves and nails started to get bitten as the clock inexorably ticked time away. No one wants a draw in a local derby.
Bangor had by now put their heads together and their pack was becoming much more competitive. They gained some good ground, and with a couple of sharp attacks, were menacingly close to scoring. The Donaghadee defence held firm and eventually forced a turnover. Blewitt’s superb clearance relieved the pressure, but a score of some kind was demanded. A team just cannot dominate a game for so much of the game, simply to end it with the anti-climax of a draw. Coach Ian Martindale threw subs Paul Hamilton and Paul Hutchinson into the fray. Shortly thereafter Bangor missed with a difficult chance, and then in the fortieth minute Donaghadee was awarded a thirty-five metre penalty – actually a 35-metre penalty far out on the touchline, and with Richard Millar just off his best. Courageously he stood up to the task. With what was easily his worst strike of the day he put the ball straight between the Bangor posts for 13-10.
There had been a few injury stoppages during the half, so the question now was how much time would the referee add on. About four minutes later, with a few Donaghadee hearts in mouths, Bangor got a penalty kick on the Donaghadee “22”. With the score at 13-10 it wasn’t that it might make the difference between winning and losing, but for many it felt like it as the kicker set up his tee. But what about the young man himself? What a load for him to carry. It was no real surprise when, shoulders in a visible slump, he skited the ball across the field. When Donaghadee were able to grab it, the ball was kicked on to the Newtownards Road and the whistle for time blew.
This was a very gripping game, but an unusual one. For forty or fifty minutes Donaghadee’s pack had thoroughly demolished their opponents, and yet Bangor had managed to get themselves back into contention in the last half-hour. On balance the result was a fair one, but the Bangor men will be happier to remember much more about the last part than they will about the first half. All in all though, this was an excellent local derby, and for the home supporters an impressive piece of work by all seventeen Donaghadee players.
Immediately after the game the majority of the supporters of both clubs were reluctant to leave the tarmac apron in front of the clubhouse. It was a pleasure to see players of both teams receiving congratulations or commiserations as appropriate from the many spectators and to join in the post-game camaraderie between these same spectators that the game of rugby football is famous for. As a result of their victory the Rodney Gray Cup was passed to Donaghadee, who will keep it until the next game between the two clubs, and Lewis Waterworth of Pier 36 presented the October Donaghadee Player of the Month award to Chris Goode for the consistency of his contributions.
The Donaghadee team was: Bobby Harpur, Gavin Gordon, Richard Millar, Stephen Marshall, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Jamie Cardwell; Chris Good (c), Gareth Gordon, Chris Schofield, Kyle Morrow, Andrew Dunn, Richard Martindale, Chris Hamilton and David Thompson. Subs: Stuart Hutchinson and Paul Hamilton.
Second Fifteen Result
Donaghadee Seconds travelled to Blaris last Saturday to play Lisburn in Junior League 3. They had the unusual pleasure of playing against at least seven Fijians, but, possibly because of this, they went down 29-8.
Chris Good, Donaghadee captain, and a number of his teammates, receiving the Rodney Gray Memorial Trophy from members of his family following the victory over Bangor on Saturday 7th November 2009. Donaghadee 2nd XV 0-20 Malone 3rd XV 10/31/2009 0 Comment(s)The weather forecast for Hallowe’en Day was not too promising, but as the game between Donaghadee 2nds and their Malone visitors kicked off it was sunny, 16 degrees and with very little wind. This is often a herald to an attractive and entertaining game. Sadly this spectacle never happened. It was not anyone’s fault; rather it was that the large Malone pack discovered early on that they had serious weight and experience advantages over their Donaghadee rivals. Three times in the first few minutes they drove their opponents back a good distance, with an indication that they could continue to do so all day.
In fact within the first ten minutes Malone performed their impressive manoeuvre so well that it repeatedly took them many metres into Donaghadee territory, seemingly without much resistance. A penalty offence by Donaghadee gave the visitors a kick at goal. Quick as a flash their scrum-half took a tap and his forwards were across the Dee line before many of the defenders had even regained their feet.
Five minutes later Malone forced a line-out fairly close to the Donaghadee line. Given what they had been doing it was no surprise to see a throw to their No. 2 jumper followed by yet another maul. Just as inexorably as those that preceded it the Malone pack drove over the line for another try. Neither try was converted, but a score of 10-0 in such short order was not promising for the home side.
However, two allies appeared to help the Donaghadee cause. One was that the skilfully executed and impressive tactic of the Malone maul lost its energy, and the slightly shell-shocked Donaghadee forwards put their minds to employing more spoiling tactics rather than a frontal barrier. The other saviour for Donaghadee was that the energies of youth gradually had been wearing down the visitors’ energies. The fearsome maul that had looked like it would overwhelm Donaghadee had become less of a threat by the end of the first quarter, and in addition both players and spectators were beginning to detect signs of fatigue creeping into their opponents’ play as fairly simple passes were dropped with few Malone forwards on hand to salvage possession. Perhaps the game was not totally lost yet.
The second half began with some new commitment for both sides. Perhaps a little too much, since the home outside half and a Malone flanker and then a centre were obliged by the referee to cool off for ten minutes on the touchline. Such a series of events often are the mark of a too-hotly contested game, but this was not the case in this game. As the game went into its final quarter it was obvious that the players on both sides had all decided that the result was now a given. Malone had more incentive to add to their total and within a few minutes they were able to force two more tries, too far out for conversion success. Most of the players and many of the spectators were not too disappointed when the referee blew for no-side with the final score of 20-0 for Malone.
At times the kicking from the Dee men was less than accurate, but their running was good and powerful. Following the fine examples set by their experienced players like Davy Thompson, Nick Lord, Brian McCracken and Thomas Trainor, the Donaghadee players threw themselves into the game with gusto. Their best co-ordinated attack featured some of the younger, newer guys in the club. It brought them the reward of an excellent try, scored by Marcus Gibson. Adam Lowry, who was having a very impressive passing game at outside-half was just wide with his conversion attempt, so the half-time score of 5-3 (courtesy of a penalty kicked by Inishowen) to Donaghadee was not that great a comfort to the Dee men - who knew full well how much of a challenge they now faced as they were both playing up the slope, and into the wind. As both teams tired these factors should have favoured the visitors.
This realisation may well have been the spark that was needed to unite the Dee forwards, who now became a much more formidable unit. The spectators who chose to watch this tightly-contested game (rather than the more one-sided game on the adjacent 1st's pitch) were rewarded for their club spirit as the Second's players took more command at the line-outs, with some excellent jumping by 2nd row Peter McQuillan. Their scrums showed a good deal more purpose, and the forwards’ all-round loose play improved immensely. Amongst the backs the determined tackling was both stirring and impressive.
Inishowen had not travelled all the way from Carndonagh to be beaten, and were as committed and giving as much effort as the Dee men. The difference between the two was in the reward that came Inishowen’s way. A loose Donaghadee pass was picked off by a stretching Inishowen hand and they were able to score between Donaghadee’s posts to take them to a worrying 10-5, with the try converted.
The Donaghadee men are made of stern stuff, and leapt back into the fray determined to make amends for this Inishowen effort. Nick Lord at scrum-half got himself in amongst the Inishowen players, spoiling much of their effort. Human dynamo Tommy Trainor is never far away when there is a loose ball, and when some fierce and committed rucking from the Dee forwards presented him with an opportunity, he was in with his usual alacrity to pounce on it and score an equalising try. Unfortunately the difficult conversion kick was missed and the game ended in a 10-10 draw; that most regarded as a fair result.
The Donaghadee team was: Anthony Bunting, Paddy Quinn, Marcus Gibson, Harvey Lennon,Dickie Baillie, Adam Lowry, Nick Lord; Marcus Nelson, Paul Hamilton. Richard Gillan, Brian McCracken, Peter McQuillan, Gavin Prue, Thomas Trainor and David Thompson.Junior League 3: Coleraine 3rd XV 39 – 0 Donaghadee 2nd XV 10/17/2009 0 Comment(s)Donaghadee 2nd XV lost this encounter away to Coleraine, with a powerful Coleraine side getting the better of the Donaghadee seconds team. In a spirited contest that was played at a great pace and (by-and-large) in a great spirit, quick recycling at the breakdown seemed to be the telling difference between the two teams. The majority of the Coleraine scores came from quick ball going out wide, and overlaps resulting.
With the game already lost, Donaghadee suffered a couple of match-ending injuries in the second half (neither serious), and finished the game with 13 men, and uncontested scrums.
Thanks to Ian Fleming who once again commandeered a mini-bus to drive the team. Clad in Hawaiian shirts, and with a boot full of tropical girly drinks, Donaghadee seconds proceeded to enjoy their long trip back to the Dee, regardless of the result. Next Saturday Donaghadee seconds play Inishowen 1st XV at Donaldson Park, with a 2.30pm kick-off.Donaghadee 24 - 22 University of Ulster, Coleraine 10/17/2009 0 Comment(s)Watching the students from University of Ulster, Coleraine complete their pre-match warm-up sent a message to the Dee supporters that Donaghadee Rugby Club's 1st XV were going to have their work cut out, to secure two valuable league points. The student’s formidable pack particularly looked a challenge for any club 1st XV.
Donaghadee Rugby Club saw former Instonians prop Chris Schofield making his debut for the Dee, along with Stevie Marshall at inside centre.
The game started poorly for Donaghadee, with the concession of a try within the opening two minutes. The powerful and impressive UUC second row Michael Dunleavy peeled off a lineout from 15 metres, to brush aside the Donaghadee out-half Paul Blewitt and score a try at the posts. Out-half Alan Whitcroft added the points to give the students an early 7 – 0 lead. With UUC moving the ball at pace, it looked as if the Dee side were going to be in for a tough day at the office.
However this young Dee side is very resilient, and they bounced back promptly to set up ball on the student’s twenty two. Out-half Paul Blewitt provided a telling pass for right winger Gavin Gordon to carve open the student’s defence, and score an excellent try underneath the posts, with centre Richard Millar adding the conversion to level the score at 7-7.
Within two minutes UUC had re-established their lead, when their winger Sam Hall showed the Donaghadee left wing Rory Garnham a clean pair of heels, outdoing Garnham for pace (no mean feat this!) on the outside to score a superb try for the students. Whitcroft was unable to add to the points with his conversion attempt. With the students dominating both scrum and line-out - Dunleavy being their star performer in the pack - the students increased their lead to 15–7, through a well struck penalty by Whitcroft. Donaghadee then reduced the student’s lead with a penalty through Millar, to make the score 15-10.
With UUC controlling both territory and possession, the students from Coleraine scored another excellent try, when a display of good off-loading by both their forwards and backs in the contact area enabled their big prop Jimmy Wilkinson to score a well deserved try, converted by Whitcoft, to extend their lead to 22 – 10. The signs were looking ominous for the Dee.
However with the men from Coleraine continuing to give away penalties, Millar reduced the Dee deficit to 22–13 with another penalty. This score-line remained to half-time, with Millar missing another penalty opportunity just before the half-time whistle sounded, to leave the students very much in control of this game at its mid-point.
As the whistle sounded for the second half, Donaghadee were now playing with the slope to their advantage, and sensed that they need to score first. A Blewitt penalty went deep into the student’s twenty-two, and lead to a Dee scrum. Quick ball from scrum-half Jamie Cardwell allowed the Dee to attack down the blindside, through winger Gavin Gordon. Second rows Richard Martindale and Kyle Morrow joined the surge towards the line, with Morrow offloading to the more senior lock forward, who touched down for a well worked try. Millar was unable to add the conversion.
With momentum now in Donaghadee's favour, Millar chased down the student’s left winger to force another penalty. Instead of taking the points, the Dee chose to run the ball, and ended up losing ground. Good work by the Dee back-row - with Chris Hamilton and Craig McCoy particularly prominent at the breakdown - forced the students to concede another penalty, which Millar converted to make the score 22–21. With a penalty count of 15–6 against the students, the referee’s decision to sin-bin Donaghadee flanker Craig McCoy (for tackling a player without the ball) incensed the Dee players and supporters.
If anything this yellow card spurred on the Donaghadee team, who kept kicking the ball deep into the students twenty-two. With Donaghadee giving good chase through wingers Gavin Gordon and Rory Garnham, and centre Richard Millar, they forced the students to give away yet more penalties for holding onto the ball at the breakdown. Millar was presented with another penalty from forty metres on his left, however the ball drifted to the right of the posts with the students still hanging on to the narrowest of leads.
No sooner had McCoy returned to the pitch, when the referee sin-binned Donaghadee's hooker Paul Hamilton, for throwing a punch following an altercation. With the Dee having to play for twenty minutes with 14 players, the team had to dig deep, urged on by captain Chris Good. Their resolve paid off when a Millar chase and tackle forced the UUC winger to give away a penalty near the halfway line. Some back chat to the referee forced the students back another ten metres.
With a kick from forty metres, and mere minutes remaining on the clock, a silence descended over Donaldson Park as 20 year old Millar stepped up and launched his kick between the posts, much to the delight of the Dee faithful. For the first time in the match Donaghadee had the lead, by a score-line of 24–22.
UUC weren’t finished yet however, with a late tackle on the student’s winger presenting them with a straightforward kick from twenty five metres to win the match. Whitcroft’s kick struck the post, and was cleared up-field by the Dee defence. A further indiscretion by the students brought their total penalty count to 22, and allowed out-half Paul Blewitt to kick the ball out of the park to the sound of the final whistle and the relief of the Dee supporters.
This was an excellent game of rugby witnessed by a large crowd. The students from Coleraine may justifiably feel hard-done-by, as they played some outstanding rugby. However there was a determination and a will to win this match by the young Dee side that made up for their recent narrow losses away to Ballyclare and Academy. The standard of rugby observed by the supporters emphasised how competitive Qualifying League Two is. The result for the Dee keeps them in contention for the league. Coaches Ian Martindale and Jimmy McCoy are now seeing this young squad, that contains 10 players aged twenty and under, starting to fulfil their potential. In a much changed 1st XV, containing only four players from last season’s starting team, much progress has been made. The addition of Chris Schofield will greatly strengthen the playing squad, as evidenced by his impressive performance for the Donaghadee team against UUC.
Donaghadee 1st XV: Chris Schofield, Paul Hamilton, Chris Good (captain), Richard Martindale, Kyle Morrow, Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton, Conor Smyth; Jamie Cardwell, Paul Blewitt, Rory Garnham, Stephen Marshall, Richard Millar, Gavin Gordon, Bobby Harper.
Next Saturday (24th October) Donaghadee 1st XV play Lisburn 1st XV at Donaldson Park, 2.30 kick-off.Academy 21-14 Donaghadee 1st XV 10/10/2009 0 Comment(s)Last Saturday at Roughfort, Newtownabbey, belied the image those who live on Belfast Lough’s southern shore have of the weather on the County Antrim side. There was hardly any wind and it was pleasantly mild. These good conditions, the early-season form of both teams and the perfect Prunty pitch combined to promise an entertaining game of rugby football.
With the wind in their favour, Academy had two early penalty-kick successes and an excellent try by their flying left wing to give them an early lead of 13-0. However, the game had begun with, and continued with, little adventure in the play. Academy’s obvious comfort with this type of game was bringing them the points reward that they have become used to this season. The impression that was forming in the minds of the large Donaghadee supporting contingent was that if the home side were allowed to continue with the same game plan, it did not augur well for the visitors. Was this game going to entertain the home side only? In actuality almost all of the heart-lifting entertainment was largely over at this early juncture. For long periods through the first half the game degenerated into a series of messy scrums, off-sides, poor decision-making, too many penalties and even a yellow card.
This is not to say the game was devoid of interest; it was that too much effort and energy was being lost in a search for what might be called sneaky advantages, than in demonstrating individual and team skills and strategies. Both sides would have been somewhat frustrated by the scrappy game, but of course the main purpose in sports is to win games and gain valuable league points, so once the uninspired tenor of the game was set, as it can be in many contact sports, it almost inevitably was condemned to continue.
The Donaghadee players gradually realised that it was going to be a long hard slog to get back on terms, and confined their enterprise to a very few adventurous forays, aiming for gradual improvement of field position, and if necessary, settling for a penalty goal when the opportunity arose. In this regard Richard Millar was a great help to the cause. Starved of good running ball by the nature of the game, he came up trumps when Donaghadee eventually got the penalty opportunities they knew must come. Richard had taken over the kicking duties because regular place-kicker Kevin Monson was on the touchline rather than at full-back for the Dee, patched up after breaking his collar-bone last week, and with a diagnosis that he would probably be fit again by Christmas. The sea-siders wish him well. Millar proved to be a cool-headed substitute kicker, sticking two long-range testers sweetly between the Academy posts. A scoreline of 13-6 for Academy was easier to live with than the 13-0 it had been for a while.
A couple of stirring runs by Donaghadee’s two wingers Bobby Harper and Rory Garnham lifted the spirits, and in a sort-of reverse way so did the yellow-carding of an Academy player for repeated killing of the ball. When the players eventually got the short rest they needed at the half-time whistle it was clear that this game was now looking a long way from over.
The first real highlight of the new half was more appreciated by the home crowd than the visitors. An interminable ruck sucked in too many Donaghadee defenders, and when Academy were able to release the ball and run to their right it was obvious that if every back held the ball and passed it quickly they must score far out because of a clear one-man overlap. The tactic worked beautifully for the home backs and the score was now a daunting 18-6 against Donaghadee.
At this stage the referee was becoming impatient both with Academy’s negative tactics to prevent clean possession, and with their reactions to his initial decisions, and awarded a series of penalties to Donaghadee. Millar converted one to take the score to 18-9, but when they got another one, a mere ten metres in front of goal, Donaghadee chose to reject a simple shot at goal in favour of attempting to score a seven-pointer. Donaghadee however failed to score, and were now forced to continue chasing the game.
To their great credit, the Donaghadee players did not let this failure to score get them down. Their forwards still worked well with Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton, Chris Good and Andrew Dunn looking prominent. As in the first half, the backs did not get many opportunities to show their paces, but their increasing possession eventually gave newcomer Rory Garnham the ball in a bit of space on his left wing.
The defensive cover was racing to close off his line of attack to the corner flag, and it seemed impossible that his serious pace would not be enough to get him to his red and green clad target. It wasn’t. More was needed. Assessing the amount of cover defence in an instant, Garnham changed mode from 'searing pace through open meadow' to “If you want me you have to stop me.” Garnham is not yet a big man, but his crash through the despairing tackles and his intelligent stretch to the line would have done credit to an international winger. Unfortunately Millar could not manage the difficult conversion kick across the wind, but Donaghadee were now within four points at 18-14, and the game was now at last anyone’s.
It was Academy who were first to get within kicking range however, and when another penalty was awarded they had no hesitation in converting it. The referee’s whistle for full-time followed almost immediately, and Donaghadee had narrowly lost a tough encounter 21-14.
Better news is that several of our injured players, and others, will be available, and mostly soon. Donaghadee Rugby Club has an unusually large squad of potential first-team players this season, and on Saturday past they fronted up and tussled well with the league leaders. Academy maybe did deserve to win this largely-uninspiring encounter, but with all due respect to them, Donaghadee could have won this encounter, and came close to doing so without playing to the level that they have in previous matches this season.
Make no mistake, Donaghadee Rugby Club is not out of contention in their league, and nor has Academy or anyone else got it sewn up. Anyone interested in seeing exciting rugby football could do worse than visit Donaldson Park for the home games (especially the much-awaited Junior Cup game against Bangor on 7 November), and maybe they might even make the journey for the away games – all of which are likely to be more worth the watching than last Saturday’s disappointing show.
The Donaghadee team was: Adam Lowry, Bobby Harper, Andrew Findlater, Richard Millar, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Jamie Cardwell; Chris Good, Paul Hamilton, Richard Nelson(c), Kyle Morrow, Andrew Dunn, Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton & Conor Smyth.
Saturday 17th October: Donaghadee Rugby Club 1st XV are at gome to UUC. The 2nd XV travel to Coleraine to play their 3rds, and Donaghadee 3rds are at home to Malone 5ths. All games kick o
Donaghadee’s Ist XV are at home to UUC, the Seconds are at Coleraine to play the town club’s Thirds and Donaghadee Thirds are at home to malone Fifths. All games kick off at 2.30pm.
Donaghadee 34 - 0 Belfast High School Former Pupils 10/03/2009 0 Comment(s) The weather forecast last Saturday morning promised winds up to 70mph in the afternoon. When Donaghadee’s visitors Belfast High School FP chose to play with what was only a gentle breeze at Donaldson Park at 2.30pm a few eyebrows rose with the thought that conditions might prove to be much more helpful to Donaghadee in the second half. Whatever, Kevin Monson kicked off with everyone in his team realising that for 40 minutes at least Donaghadee’s best strategy was to run the ball at every opportunity. Player-coach Ian Martindale’s ankle injury and David Thompson’s all-over body sprain meant a slightly new look to the home side, but the few who were in the know were saying new winger Bobby Harper and scrum-half Jamie Cardwell in his first outing in the No. 9 shirt would be worth the watching.
Right from the start the effects of the wind threw both sides a bit, and it was its unpredictability that gave Donaghadee their first points. Monson gathered a ball in mid-field with little option but to hoist it for a chase. The High School full-back could see where it should have landed, and got there, only to see a gust take it away from his despairing hands. His knock-on gave the attacking side the scrum. They heeled quickly and certainly, Cardwell gave to Paul Blewitt and he transferred to the supporting Monson who presented right winger Harper with his first-ever touch of the ball in a Donaghadee shirt. Two seconds later his searing run to the High School line gave him his first try. The still-gusty wind played havoc with the difficult kick, but Donaghadee were well buoyed up by this excellent start. Their supporters were just as thrilled, one of them stating the obvious “This new boy looks like he might be OK.” Just how OK was to become clearer as the game proceded.
The relaxed and confident refereeing of the game was giving both teams every chance to play rugby. Donaghadee certainly took theirs, but High School were more cautious, putting their trust in a wind that seemed to favour them. As they restarted after the opening try it was obvious that High School’s priority was to play the game in Donaghadee’s territory. A running attack fizzled into a too-casual punt downfield that was easily fielded by Richard Millar near his own line. When he saw the empty prairie in front of him he just had to gallop across it. An encouraging feature of play of this season’s Donaghadee pack is their urgency to get to the best places to support such running. When Millar saw his charge was over he found Paul Hamilton right where he wanted him on his left shoulder. This aggressive hooker dismissed any thoughts of taking a long way round some blue-shirted defenders. Route one took him forty metres through the oncoming tacklers with hardly a check in his pace. The hungry Harper was in close support and took a clean pass with a hard 20 metres still to go. He scorched over the whitewash with enough room to spare to get round behind the posts to give Monson an easy chance to take Donaghadee to 12-0. This was very rewarding for the home side, and richly deserved.
With only the first quarter gone Donaghadee went further ahead. A highly speculative Donaghadee kick confused the swarming High School backs and it was the ubiquitous Millar who claimed possession and roared for the line. The ever-alert Monson was on hand when required with only an easy run to give himself the easiest of conversions to take Donaghadee to a comfortable 19-0.
A few minutes later Conor Smyth claimed a loose ball in quite an unpromising position inside his own half. Like bees in May the Dee forwards swarmed around the ball-carrier, took it along until they were halted and released it well. Paul Blewitt, who was looking sharp with a few wee darts of his own, saw Harper to his right. Realising in an instant that the Kiwi had not scored for a few minutes Blewitt gave him the loveliest of passes and waved him onwards. This gave a hat-trick to Harper and a 24-0 lead to Donaghadee as they went into the break.
Finding anything to criticise in Donaghadee’s play had been difficult up to the interval, and indeed there was much to savour in the second period too. However, it was crystal clear that the second half was going to be seriously affected by the wind, and it would be misleading to evade mention of Donaghadee’s slow realisation of just how hard the wind was now blowing. In fairly quick succession at least five clearing kicks from Donaghadee players did not stop bounding ever onwards until they hit the hedge behind High School’s dead-ball line.
Eventually the home side’s players worked this out and began again to let the ball do the work. The first to get the ball and a good field position at the same time was Millar. He saw the prolific Harper to his right, but his good vision had spotted a covering defence heading for him, so, with the merest hint of a dummy, he kept going. To those on the touchline the next bit was easy – slip the ball to someone else to change the direction of attack. Richard, who was having a magnificently confident game, thought different and went on himself – and got caught by the determined High School defence who were grateful to clear their lines.
In spite of the points deficit, and to their great credit, High School were able to mount a few attacks of their own. This forced Donaghadee to work hard to retain their clean sheet, and some fine tackling resulted. All the Dee players played their part, but for this observer the destroyer in chief was undoubtedly left-wing Gavin Gordon. Probably his havoc was the result of his splendid years in the higher levels of that 'other' rugby code, combined with his growing frustration that all of Donaghadee’s attacks were going right and that his right wing team-mate was having a day out.
In spite of the 24-0 deficit, High School were not conceding the game. So resolute was Donaghadee’s tackling that they could only come close, but time after time they were denied by solid defence. The highlight of this intense period of High School attack was undoubtedly the ferocious goal-line double tackle from flanker Craig McCoy and left-wing Gordon. This was a perfect demonstration of Donaghadee’s “They shall not pass” mentality.
But all footballers know that the the best form of defence is attack. The Dee men threw themselves back into mounting three great combined efforts in as many minutes, only to be frustrated by strong tackling or maybe a handling error. Eventually it was inevitable that further tries would come. Probably fed up with so little go-forward ball, Gavin Gordon came in off his left wing to change the angle of attack, and linked up with his other three-quarters. They combined quite expertly to send in Harper for his fourth try of a game he will not forget. At around this time a seemingly-innocuous tackle resulted in Kevin Monson being escorted off the field by club physio Niall Morraghan. Monson was taken to the Ulster Hospital, but the early diagnosis was a fractured collar-bone. Donaghadee Chairman David Monson must have had confused feelings as he realised that full-back Kevin, along with Donaghadee club captain Andrew also out injured, his club were now down two first-team backs, both sons were injured, and his company now has two incapacitated employees. Everyone wishes all three Monsons speedy recoveries.
Minutes after the restart the Donaghadee pack had clearly decided that the piano-shifters were not going to be outshone by the piano-players in this game. All eight of them worked with fearsome resolve to work their way over to demonstrate that they have class of their own. So energetic was the advance that everyone watching just knew that the pressure could only end in a try; the question was who would get it. The answer was that it was Paul Hamilton who got the deserved credit, but that all his pack colleagues shared it. With Monson hors de combat, Millar tried to end the game on a high with the conversion. On the field he didn’t succeed, but minutes later had the compensation of being awarded Man of the Month by Jodie Waterworth from Donaghadee’s official sponsors, Pier 36.
The Donaghadee team was: Kevin Monson, Bobby Harper, Andrew Findlater, Richard Millar, Gavin Gordon, Paul Blewitt, Jamie Cardwell; Chris Good, Paul Hamilton, Richard Nelson (c), Kyle Morrow, Andrew Dunn, Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton and Conor Smyth. DONAGHADEE SQUEEZED 9-6 BY BALLYCLARE 09/27/2009 0 Comment(s) Donaghadee kicked off at Cloghans, Ballyclare, and almost immediately came close to a dream start. With quick possession the Dee threequarters almost got over for a try in Ballyclare’s left corner, but the home defence held.
It was to be almost an hour before the significance of this narrow miss was properly realised. Donaghadee did manage a number of penetrative attacks, but their opponents’ defence held, while Ballyclare chose to make almost all of their territorial gain from huge kick-outs from their stand-off.
Over the course of the game this did not produce an entertaining spectacle for those in attendance, with the only opportunity for gaining points coming from penalty kicks. One viewer commented that the attrition and lack of co-ordinated attacks in the first half reminded him of World War 1 film footage. 18 penalties were awarded during this period, mostly from offences in the trenches, and a player from each side was removed by the referee from the front lines, for the obligatory ten minutes. The result was a half-time scoreline of 3-3 – probably a fair comment about the contrast with the previous week’s rampaging running by Donaghadee’s backs and forwards.
The second half did not bring any real excitement to the game, although it did provide an early low point and in quick succession an exhilarating high point. The former was the sad sight of player-coach Ian Martindale limping off after about ten minutes, followed by the gradual realisation that Martindale’s body language was screaming that he might not be rejoining the fray. The high point for Donaghadee was that, even being a man short, they forced a score that put them in front. Yes, it was yet another penalty goal, but a 6-3 lead has its own reward.
This slender lead was not to last long, and Ballyclare’s numerical superiority eventually told with another penalty kick bringing them their much-needed equalizer. Naturally the home side then produced a sustained effort designed to get at least a few points of a lead before the numbers might again be equal. Their efforts were still mostly confined to territorial gain from huge kicks, followed by forward drives. Donaghadee threw themselves into the breach to block all gaps, but by now it had become more obvious that Martindale was unable to resume.
Gradually the strain of holding on with a smaller force ate into their abilities to produce the sort of attack they are usually capable of; their heroic defensive efforts meant that in attack they could not penetrate with enough vigour to find the crucial gap in Ballyclare’s defence.
By now both sets of spectators, and probably most of the players, were thinking that the continuing stalemate would probably be best served by a final whistle and a draw that would satisfy both teams. Unfortunately for Donaghadee, holding out not far in front of their posts and, with three or four minutes’ injury time on the clock, the referee’s whistle blasted. As the pile-up gradually disentangled the Donaghadee players saw that the referee had blown for another penalty, and that it was for Ballyclare. When they looked round they saw that it was almost unmissably in front of the Dee posts. Only the greatest miss could save Donaghadee, however this didn't come to pass with Ballyclare taking full advantage.
There were a couple of minutes of desultory play to conclude the game, but the 9-6 kick had killed Donaghadee off as effectively as a knife in the heart. Donaghadee courage did help them get into Ballyclare’s half, and indeed be awarded a penalty kick. This looked kickable, but the more accurate measured looks suggested that the forty-odd metre distance was a wee bit far to be anything more than optimistic. There remained just about enough time for a hard kick and something of a possibility of a draw, or a kick for touch followed by possession from the resulting line-out that may have just forced a win. Donaghadee chose the latter – and missed touch. In seconds the ball went dead and so did the game.
With all customary respect to Ballyclare they kicked three penalties and this won them the game, but Donaghadee should really be looking forward to the rematch at Donaldson Park in February.
The Donaghadee team was: Kevin Monson, Andrew Findlater, Ian Martindale, Richard Millar, Gavin Gordon, Paul Blewitt, Jonny Phillips; Robert Anderson, Paul Hamilton, Gareth Gordon, David Thompson, Andrew Dunn, Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton and Conor Smyth.
Other Donaghadee Results: Junior Three: Donaghadee 2nds 31 - 27 Ballyclare 3rds Minor League East: Donaghadee 3rds 0 - 38 Bangor 3rds
This Saturday’s Fixtures (3 October): Donaghadee’s Ist XV entertain Belfast High School at Donaghadee. The 2nds and 3rds are away, the former at Portadown and the 3rds at Ballyclare. All games kick off at 2.30pm. Donaghadee 1st XV 37 - 23 Carrick 1st XV 09/19/2009 0 Comment(s) Donaghadee opened their league account, and christened their new kit (courtesy of Club Sponsors Pier 36), with a flourish. In a thoroughly entertaining game of rugby, played in excellent conditions at Donaldson Park, the opening twenty five minutes were keenly and evenly contested, with both sides kicking two penalties each through Dee fullback Kevin Monson and the Carrick out half.
The game suddenly came to life in the final fifteen minutes of the first half, with four tries being scored. The Dee forwards turned over ball on the Carrick twenty two, for winger Jamie Cardwell to storm through on the blindside and score in the corner, with Monson adding an excellent touchline conversion. However shortly after the Dee appeared to switch off, knocking-on from the restart in their own twenty two. From the resulting scrum the Carrick number 8 scored a try beside the posts with their outhalf adding the points to level the scores at 13-13.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, Donaghadee scored two superb tries. The first came from a scrum on their own twenty two; outhalf Ian Martindale moved the ball wide to his winger Gavin Gordon, who made good ground to the Carrick twenty two before passing to his centre Richard Millar. Showing the pace of youth, Millar outstripped the Carrick cover to score at the posts with Monson, adding the points. The enthusiastic crowd had barely recovered from this score, when Martindale once again turned provider by cutting through the Carrick cover from the halfway line. He offloaded to the supporting Millar, who powered over from the twenty two underneath the posts, with several would-be tacklers trailing in his wake. Again Monson added the two points, to leave the half time score at 27-13 to the Dee.
Five minutes into the second half a loose ball was dropped by the Dee backs. Picked up by the Carrick scrum half on his own ten metre line, he outpaced the Donaghadee cover to score in the corner, with the Carrick out half adding the points with a difficult touchline conversion.
With the score at 27-20 the nervous Dee supporters sensed a Carrick fightback. Several breaks by Martindale came to nothing, with fullback Kevin Monson failing to convert several difficult penalties. Monson then kicked a more straightforward penalty, following a chargedown from a Carrick twenty-two drop-out by centre Andrew Findlater, to increase the Dee lead to ten points. However over-eagerness at the breakdown by Donaghadee led to the prolific Carrick outhalf converting another penalty, to once again narrow the Dee lead to seven points.
With the game evenly matched, and seemingly in the balance, player-coach Ian Martindale opened up the Carrick defence with a surging break from halfway. He offloaded the ball to the supporting Millar, who deftly and powerfully evaded several defenders before touching down beside the posts, and completing his hat-trick in the process. Monson kicked the conversion to bring his personal tally for the afternoon to 17 points, with the final kick of a great match.
A great performance was put in by the Dee, with the forwards strong in the set pieces and at the breakdown. Donaghadee faces a big test next saturday, as they travel to play the league favourites Ballyclare. The hard work put in by the coaches Ian Martindale and Jimmy McCoy, and by the players on Tuesday and Thursday nights has produced encouraging early season performances.
The Donaghadee team was (1-15): RIchard Nelson, Gareth Gordon, Chris Good, Andrew Dunne, Kyle Morrow, Craig McCoy, Chris Hamilton, Connor Smith; Jonny Phillips (capt.), Ian Martindale, Gavin Gordon, Andrew Findlater, Richard Millar, Jamie Cardwell, Kevin << Previous