After their first league defeat of the season, Donaghadee got back to winning ways last weekend with a bonus point victory against fellow Section two graduates CIYMS.
League encounters at Donaldson Park this season have not been short of incident and excitement, and this contest did not disappoint, played in great conditions in front of a bumper home crowd. A penalty a piece in the opening few minutes got both teams off the mark, with Donaghadee's Ricardo Santos levelling the early CI penalty. CI scored the first try of the game on the 10th minute, after a clever kick in behind the Dee defence was collected by their oncoming winger who scored an excellent unconverted try in the club house corner.
Donaghadee responded immediately with a move that started on the halfway line. Player-coach Ian Martindale - starting his first game of the season - fed the ball to Kalava Aualiitia who, after a powerful dart on the left touch line, offloaded to Billy Allen, who although tight on the touch line created enough space to produce a scoring pass to Dee full back Nigel Barker who had the pace to touch down close to the uprights. Santos converted to give the home side a 10-8 lead.
On the 22nd minute Dee scored their second try of the day, a score that came from one of their strong set piece plays. Richard Martindale secured line out ball and whilst returning to ground offloaded the ball to the oncoming Dee second row forward David Thompson who exploited a gap on the blindside. After a series of phases Ian Martindale attacked the line before offloading to his centre partner Bobby Harpur who touched down under the uprights. Santos successfully converted.
Donaghadee dominated the middle period of the first half with the forward's grind and work ethic being complimented by some purposeful breaks by the backline. It was during one of these attacks that Donaghadee came close to extending their lead.
Barker broke through a couple of tackles and although the ball eventually went to ground, Richard Miller only narrowly missed out on touching down after showing great ability to kick through and dribble the ball over the try line only to be thwarted by the covering defence.
CI will be disappointed that they only got a three point return from a dominant spell in Donaghadee’s half during the final ten minutes of the first half.
Half time: Donaghadee 17 CIYMS 11
The game appeared to be turning in favour of the away side early in the second half as they made a determined start, followed by the sin binning of Dee second row Aualiitia who had made a positive impact on the game to that point. CI reduced Donaghadee’s lead to three points by successfully kicking the penalty that resulted from the sin bin offence.
The Donaghadee front row played a huge part in the outcome of this game. Schofield, Gordon and Good have become a formidable unit and on many occasions set the benchmark to which the rest of the team aspire. It was Schofield’s work in the loose that forced CI to infringe and gave Santos another opportunity to kick another three points which he duly accepted on 58 minutes.
Schofield then treated the Dee crowd to a lesson in front row counter attacking with a well measured kick and chase which he just narrowly missed out on collecting after stretching his legs on this 60 yard sprint. Schofield's fine performance was capped with his first try of the season after a being fed quick ball from the breakdown by Alastair Lockhart on the 63rd minute. Santos converted to give Donaghadee a 27-14 lead.
CI continued to chase the game and at times looked dangerous on the counter attack, however their cause was perhaps hampered by having to at times force moves as they looked to reduce the deficit.
Dee saved the finest try for the last play of the game, and this the try that secured Donaghadee’s fourth bonus point win of the season. Dee scrum half Lockhart picked the ball up from the back of a ruck and attacked the CI line showing great awareness to spot the supporting Richard Miller who had the speed to see off two challenges as he touched down under the uprights.
Paul Blewitt converted with the final kick of the game to give Donaghadee 34 points to 14 win.
It was clear to see, from the reaction of players, coaching staff and supporters, how much this bonus point victory meant to Donaghadee Rugby Club. All those involved should be very proud of their efforts this season as Donaghadee remain five points clear at the top of Ulster’s Junior League.
There of course remains tough fixtures ahead, particularly away from home but this fantastic start to the season should give all involved the confidence and motivation to sustain performances at this level in all competitions that remain, starting with Saturday’s trip to Dungannon in the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup.
Scoop's Man of the Match This man’s performances have gone from strength to strength since his arrival to Donaghadee in August. On Saturday Kalava Aualiitia put a bone crushing tackle in against his opposite number in the first five minutes that set the tone for this excellent performance both in set piece line outs and his contribution in open play. The experience Aualiitia brings to the pack appears to be getting the best out of younger players such as Richard Miller who had a good game at NO.8 Donaghadee Rugby Club 1st XV vs CIYMS RFC (15-9) Nigel Barker, Billy Allen, Bobby Harpur, Ian Martindale, Ricardo Santos (Paddy Quinn), Paul Blewitt, Alastair Lockhart; (1-8) Chris Schofield, Gareth Gordon, Chris Good, Kalave Aualiitia, David Thompson ( Paul Hamilton), Richard Martindale, Kenny McCombe, Richard Miller