Donaghadee 26-14 Portadown RFC The 'Dee book a date at Ravenhill!
Donaghadee Rugby Club took a step close to lifting the Junior Cup for the first time in fifty years by securing their place in this year’s Junior Cup Final with a 26-14 win against Portadown in a pulsating game at Donaldson Park.
Portadown settled earliest and scored the first points on the 5th minute, courtesy of a Colin Lawson penalty in front of the Donaghadee posts. Ricardo Santos levelled the scores on the 10th minute after a dominant period of play by the home side.
Donaghadee - encouraged on by the large support - went on to take control of the game for long periods of the opening half, their strong set piece scrimmaging causing the away side problems. Portadown’s defence frustrated a wave of Donaghadee pressure, leaving the home side with only an additional three points from a 20th minute Santos penalty.
On the 22nd minute Santos picked up a ball that went loose from a fantastic tackle from Kalave Auali’ita on Portadown’s Stewart Lamb. With few attacking options available the Donaghadee right winger chipped the ball deep into the Portadown and forced the cover player to kick the ball into touch.
From the resulting lineout the Donaghadee pack attacked the try line before Alistair Lockhart fed the ball to his outside half Paul Blewitt who showed a glimpse of the ball to his opposite number before brushing off two attempted tackles to score the first try of the day, a glimpse of pure class from the Donaghadee stalwart. Santos converted to give Donaghadee a 13-3 lead.
Try scorer Blewitt then used wind advantage from the restart and executed a fine strike out of hand to find touch in the visitors 22 and put Donaghdee back on the attack once again.
After a 15 minute period of domination by Donaghadee the visitor's cause was further dented by the sin binning of their influential skipper Gareth McCoy on the 32nd minute. From the resulting penalty Santos made it four from five as he coolly slotted over to give Dee a 16-3 advantage.
Donaghadee continued to push for an additional score before half time with powerful work in the loose from Miller, Good and Gordon. On the 37th minute young left winger Chris McGivern, who had an excellent first half was illegally tackled by Lamb as he burst for the line; this phase of ended McGivern’s participation in the game.
Portadown had the final say in the 1st half with a second Lawson penalty after Donaghadee infringing.
Half Time: Donaghadee 16 Portadown 6
Portadown started the second period brightly, benefiting from the wind that the home side had in the first half. Donaghadee’s defence however has been the most consistent aspects of their fine season and the first time tackling of Auali’ita, Thompson, McCombe and friends appeared to frustrate the away side who within five minutes of the restart changed tactic and started to kick the ball in behind the Donaghadee defence.
Now playing against the elements, Donaghadee were forced to hold onto the rugby ball and grind their way out of defensive territory. This in many ways suited the physical nature of the game that the Donaghadee pack appears well drilled in. Good, Mccombe and Thompson being particularly strong carriers in open play.
Nigel Barker and Bobby Harpur were solid in defence and put in some excellent tackles against a very direct Portadown back line. Harpur, leading by example, was on the receiving end of a couple of heavy blows, the second of which put an end to his game (being replaced by player coach Ian Martindale).
Although these long periods of Donaghadee possession were often in their own half, it frustrated the away side as they were starved of attacking opportunities for long periods of the second half.
On the 57th minute Donaghadee had a rare opportunity to attack from a set piece in Portadown’s half. Richard Martindale collected the ball at the front of the lineout as he had done so well all game and started the red and green pack moving forward at pace. After making 15 yards David Thompson broke from the pack. Once this man gathers pace he is hard to put down and after a purposeful attack, he fell just short of the line. Lockhart kept the move alive and fed the ball to McCombe who needed no second invitation to attack the line and from 3 meters out used his strength to carry himself and two tacklers over the line getting the ball grounded on route. Santos scored the conversion to give Donaghadee a 23-6 lead going into the final quarter.
Portadown showed great character at this stage and brought themselves back into contention with a 65th minute try in the move of the day which saw the ball spread right across their back line to allow fullback Chris Cousins to touch down in the club house corner. The conversion tight from the touch line was missed to leave Portadown a 12 point deficit.
This deficit was reduced to nine points courtesy of a well taken Lawson penalty on the 68th minute and a Portadown revival was well and truly underway, making a good return from their most dominant spell of the game.
Donaghadee however showed true spirit and experienced campaigners like Schofield and Thompson rallied the troops who responded to put an end to the momentum Portadown had built in the final quarter.
Donaghadee’s nerves were settled on the 72nd minute when the ever reliable boot of Santos restored Donaghadee’s 12 point advantage. The home side looked the most likely to extend their league in the final stages of the game with Portadown’s frustrations boiling over during the closing stages leading to the sin binning of Number 8 Stewart Lamb.
The final whistle was met with fantastic scenes of celebration as the class of 2011 secured the club's first Junior Cup final appearance since 1993.
Full Time: Donaghadee 26 Portadown 14
The local club has enjoyed a wonderful history and after a special 125th anniversary year few could have forecast the memorable season the 1st XV are enjoying this season. The squad that Ian Martindale and John Blewitt have been working with has not been put together in one season with many of the squad having played together for a number of seasons, this blend of experience youth and mutual understanding being key in this year’s fine start to the season.
With a number of key leagues games to come before the Cup Final, the squad is keen to consolidate their position at the top of Qualifying League One. Although the next couple of games are away from home travelling support at these games is always much appreciated by players and coaches alike.
Junior Cup Semi Final Winning Squad:
Billy Allen, Ricardo Santos, Bobby Harpur, Nigel Barker ,Chris McGivern, Alastair Lockhart, Chris Schofield, Gareth Gordon,Chris Good, Kalave Aualiitia,David Thompson Richard Martindale, Kenny McCombe, Richard Miller
Subs: Paul Hamilton (65mins) Ian Martindale (40 mins) Keith McIlwaine (50mins) Andrew Faulkner, Andy Monson
Fixtures and Events:
Saturday 10th December – 1st XV vs. Ballymoney – (Away League) Saturday 17th December – Ist XV vs. CIYMS (League) Sunday 18th December – Junior Section Christmas Party (Santa arrives at 1.30pm)