On a perfect playing surface at Drumahoe, Donaghadee Firsts had a fine away win and secured two vital league points in their push for promotion. The first half belonged to the Dee with the forwards and backs dominating the possession and territory. Stubborn defence by the YM team and the inability of the Dee team to make that final pass count denied them several more tries in an entertaining half of running rugby.
Richard Millar was providing good ball from the lineout, but at times the Donaghadee forwards allowed the tenacious YM forwards to turn over several balls at the breakdown. Donaghadee well know how to be patient, and the break through eventually came after twenty minutes. Pressure on a YM lineout by the forwards enabled the Dee scrum half Jamie Cardwell to release his backs. The strong running centre Gavin Gordon, was able to break the YM defence to put his speedster wing Rory Garnham away for an excellent try in the corner. Millar then added the points with a well struck conversion.
An excellent take from the kick off by the Donaghadee scrum half Jamie Cardwell under pressure from the YM forwards allowed his out-half Paul Blewitt to clear the ball up to the YM twenty-two. Although the YM pack was able to secure possession and clear their lines, Paul Blewitt was once again able to put a penalty kick deep into the YM twenty two. From the lineout the Dee won a penalty, in good enough position to kick at goal. Instead, the quick thinking Cardwell took a tap-kick that allowed his backs to run. Excellent handling by Blewitt and Gavin Gordon put young full back Adam Lowry in for a try. Millar again added the points to increase the Dee lead to 14–0.
The ever improving second row forward Kyle Morrow caught the restart to set up good ball for his forwards only for the YM forwards to concede another penalty – and an extra ten metres for some unnecessary protestation. These ten metres extra gave Millar a chance for a long range shot at goal. He, and his team-mates may have been momentarily disappointed as his huge effort sailed agonisingly close, but they had not long to wait for greater reward. When the Donaghadee forwards got another opportunity for concerted effort soon after they created an immovable platform. Cardwell timed his feed to Blewitt well; he fed the supporting Millar; Gordon steamed up at his shoulder and then gave to young Garnham. This sort of quick possession and distribution often concludes with the same climax. Garnham fixed his opposite number, switched on his afterburner and was gone. His second try took Donaghadee to 19-0 and Millar’s difficult conversion meant Donaghadee going into the break 21–0 in front.
With no Northern Lights to brighten the sky that day, the visibility was fading rapidly even as the new half began. Almost inevitably the game became a scrappier affair with the Donaghadee side failing to take advantage of their first half performance. Surprisingly it was the YM forwards, urged by their Captain Kenny Donaghy, who started to dominate the collisions. The Dee’s discipline at the breakdown deserted them a little, forcing the referee to award several penalties against them. YM’s young out half Stuarty Simpson failed narrowly with a goal attempt that could have put their first points on the board.
In the ever-darkening conditions it was little surprise when tempers flared a little at a ruck with the Dee’s number 8 Richard Millar and the YM Captain and 7 Donaghy being yellow carded. From the same breakdown YM lost their young centre Davy Graham with a knee injury. Despite being down to thirteen players the YM took the game to the Dee. When the defenders were obliged to concede another penalty close to their line the referee had to show his yellow card again, and sent Donaghadee’s centre Bobby Harper to the sin bin.
After a moment or two of 13-a-side rugby football, it was YM who gained some momentum. As they continued to press the Donaghadee line the ball went to their prop Graham Brown for him to score a well deserved try converted by Simpson to narrow the Dee lead to 21–7. Soon afterwards Millar and Donaghy returned to the fray. Almost immediately Donaghy made a terrific break towards the Dee twenty two. Eventually Blewitt eased the pressure on the Dee team by clearing the ball deep into the YM twenty two. As the minutes ticked away the Donaghadee forwards re-established control of the ball. Near YM’s line they were forced to concede a penalty that Millar converted to increase the Dee lead to 24–7, and it appeared that the visitors were back in business.
From the restart kick their forwards moved the ball for winger Rory Garnham to carry the ball close to the YM line, although he could not quite get the score that would have given him what would have been a well-deserved hat-trick. From the five metre scrum that resulted Number 8 Millar came close to a try, but was only just denied by the determined YM back row. Then, when Donaghadee moved the ball wide winger Marcus Gibson was only just denied a try in the corner. The referees whistle sounded to bring to an end a poor second half played in darkness. This whistle was followed by another and the two teams guessed that the game must be over, although it was difficult to see anything in the gloom.
There was some stirring rugby in this game during the daylight hours, and also some uncompromising tussling, with too many off the ball incidents in the unplayable conditions of the second half. An area of concern for the Donaghadee coaches might be the unusually high penalty count. This is not an infallible guide to the nature of a game or of a team’s performance in it, but a touchline statistician at Drumahoe counted 8 for Donaghadee against 3 for LYMCA, but the second half, admittedly in the twilight, was a contrasting 2 penalties against YM to 13 against the Dee. This reflected the untidy nature of the rugby played in the second half.
Donaghadee team: Adam Lowry, Marcus Gibson, Gavin Gordon, Bobby Harper, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Jamie Cardwell; Chris Schofield, Gareth Gordon, Chris Good (c), David Thompson, Kyle Morrow, Stuart Hutchison, Chris Hamilton and Richard Millar.
Other results from Saturday 5th December:
Junior league Three: Donaghadee 2nd XV 15-12 Coleraine 3rd XV Minor League East Two: CIYMS 4th XV v Donaghadee 3rd XV - postponed due to water-logged pitch.
Club Chairman David Monson has reminded members that ballot tickets for the Xmas Draw should be returned ASAP. Members and supporters of Donaghadee Rugby Club are reminded that a coach will be provided for supporters to travel to the Junior Cup match away to Clogher Valley on the 19th December. Contact David Monson or Jim Lyttle.
Fixture Thursday 10th December: Junior league Three: Donaghadee 2nd XV v Ballymena 4th XV - Donaldson Park. Kick off 7.45PM, fixture to be played under the lights. Also at this match a new kit, sponsored by Total Van Solutions, will be worn for the first time.