Donaghadee resumed their Qualifying League Two programme last Saturday (23 Oct). Their visiting opponents were the newly promoted Grosvenor HSFP and the hosts were anxious to preserve their unbeaten league run.
The Grosvenor club is now fielding a noticeably young side and one that is new to Section Two. Because of their promotion they are largely unknown in recent times to the Donaghadee players, but their early forays showed players and spectators alike that they had a number of pacy and skilful players. After the usual testing sallies one expects it was a simple enough penalty to Donaghadee that got the first points on the scoreboard, but the spectators did not have long to wait before they had the thrill of watching Donaghadee’s backs turn it on. Ian Martindale made one of his trademark charges before recycling the ball to his support and it was left to Andrew Findlater to get the touchdown.
With the score now 10-0, it was some encouragement to the visitors when, after some hard running, they were awarded the softest of penalties right in front of the Donaghadee posts and thus were able to gain their first points. The new image of 10-3 on the scoreboard did not last long because the serious pressure that Donaghadee can mount when they put themselves to it brought another unstoppable surge for the Grosvenor line that resulted in the ubiquitous Bobby Harpur claiming the try and Kyle Morrow taking the extra two points.
If some Grosvenor eyes were downcast to see the new scoreline of 17-3 it was to be only a moment or two before they had to look at the new figures of 22-3. This was the result of an impressive run from Donaghadee’s right winger Chris McGivern. From well inside his own half he went a good 70 metres in about seven seconds sending panic through the Grosvenor defence. When despairing tackles finally grounded McGivern, Donaghadee were awarded a scrum in good field position. From it, Donaghadee’s forwards breached the Grosvenor’s defence yet again with the seasiders’ Paul Hamilton being given the credit for the score.
Moments later some more good quick ball was won, and from this it shot through the half backs to Ian Martindale and the big man drew more than his share of would-be tacklers. Then, with some panache, not to mention the rush of decoy runners, the ball was suddenly in the hands of the scorching Rory Garnham and he was over the whitewash before a hand could be laid on him. Morrow did the honours once again for 29-3.
Now fancying themselves a bit, the Donaghadee players could not wait to try another well-drilled move with Martindale and Garnham switching right and left before getting the ball to Gareth Gordon. This tireless hooker in a number of strides showed that he too knew how spot angles and to run hard, but the enthusiastic Grosvenor were able to muster enough men to deny another try.
The inevitable came moments later when Richard Martindale soared above everyone for a magnificent catch in the line-out. Some magic between Findlater, Garnham and then Ian Martindale supported by the tireless Stuart Hutchinson was just kept out by some good defence from Grosvenor. Play got a bit frantic for a while and it seemed almost inevitable when Ian Martindale gained another try for Donaghadee, and of course a valuable bonus point.
To their great credit, Grosvenor raised their game and combined together to take play about ninety metres before Donaghadee’sdefence got themselves co-ordinated enough to hold them out right on the Dee line. Geed up by the shock of almost having their line crossed, Donaghadee produced some superhuman efforts from their forwards with Hutchinson and Paul Hamilton catching the eye with their work rate and tackle count. The pressure now became intense, and when another try resulted it was not too much of a surprise. It was Alistair Lockhart who got the final touch, but it was a great team effort that allowed Donaghadee to go into the break 39-3 up, and feeling pretty happy with their game.
At the start of the second half Grosvenor grabbed possession and for a moment danger threatened the home side. When the ball found the Grosvenor winger he tried to run through Bobby Harpur. Big mistake; the attack collapsed as the Dee outside-half flattened him. However it was only a stall. It was Grosvenor who gained possession and their impressive No. 8 took off like his life depended on it. With seventy or eighty metres to go he appeared to have no other thought than scoring a try on his own. He was right. Although many men tried to stop him, this impressive runner wrong-footed everyone and went all the way. Grosvenor had some encouragement in taking the 39-3 score to a less-daunting 39-10. This game was not yet over.
Although Donaghadee did manage another unconverted try the overall impression during the next quarter hour was that most of the effort and desire was coming from the visitors. This of course was not that surprising. The Dee players knew deep down that the laurels were to be theirs; but the Grosvenor players clearly had decided that if they were to be defeated it would not be without a fight. The Donaghadee defence simply did enough to keep their line secure and to deny decent possession to Grosvenor.
As many spectators were deciding that there was not likely to be any more excitement, the referee imposed himself to speak to Chris Schofield for his over-robust play and obliged him to watch the remaining minutes of the game from behind the Grosvenor posts. This enlivened the fourteen-man Dee team and they forced play well into the Grosvenor half. When the now-revitalised Dee seven recycled the ball it found the hands of full-back Billy Allen who was so close up in support that it appeared he at least envisaged another score. A look right and a look left and he was off on a curving run to his left that took him around the Grosvenor threequarters for what proved to be the final score.
So Donaghadee were well-enough satisfied with the game on at least three levels. They had come back from their narrow cup loss at Ballymoney, they had achieved a 49-10 victory over a promising young Grosvenor team and they had maintained their unbeaten league record. With the knowledge that in eight games they have scored 256points while conceding only 74 the Dee men will have enjoyed their week-end, but no doubt coach Jimmie McCoy will have been impressing on them this week that they still have to focus and work hard to keep their place at the top of the league.
Donaghadee team: Billy Allen,Chris McGivern, Ian Martindale, Andrew Findlater, Rory Garnham; Bobby Harpur, Alistair Lockhart, Chris Schofield, Gareth Gordon, Chris Good (c), Kyle Morrow, Richard Martindale, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Hamilton and Paul Hamilton.