Donaghadee Lose in Coleraine University of Ulster, Coleraine 17 - 3 Donaghadee
Donaghadee made the long journey to Coleraine last Saturday, conscious that they were short of six of their First Team Squad’s backs. If any of their number had been consulting the Ulster Branch IRFU website they may have dismissed many of their worries because they would have seen that UUC were lying three from the bottom of their league. On the other hand, those who have seen the Coleraine students play over the last two seasons well know that they are a tidy and useful team.
On a soft drizzly day, but on a fine playing surface, the exchanges between the sides were mostly decided in Donaghadee’s favour, although the only points going on the scoreboard were three to Donaghadee from a penalty kick by Richard Millar.
For obvious reasons Donaghadee’s strategy was to keep the ball among their forwards as much as possible, and when they did get clean enough possession, either kick for territory or try a drive through the middle using the hard-running Millar. The former did have some measure of success, but the latter tactic was mostly unproductive because the UUC defenders had wisely decided to target Donaghadee’s big centre, and team-tackled him very competently, and then smothered any possibility of quick release.
An area of Donaghadee’s game that was going unusually badly was the line-out, where the slippery ball and the useful work of UUC’s bigger forwards was disrupting Donaghadee’s usual supremacy in this department of the game.
However, at this early stage it was mostly Donaghadee in the ascendency. But, when a combined, but not obviously dangerous-looking, forward drive from UUC made its stuttering way towards Donaghadee’s goal-line it was still something of a surprise to almost everybody when their momentum gained them a try about half-way out on their left. The successful conversion made it 7-3 to UUC. This was somewhat against the run of play, but the question was could the students benefit further from this success.
It was at this point that Donaghadee’s mercurial scrum-half Alistair Lockhart was spotted limping from the field of play leaning on physio Niall Moraghan. Within seconds everyone present knew what young Lockhart had known in the instant – his hamstring had torn. The goal just scored was a blow, but the loss of a man for the rest of the game, especially a highly-influential scrum-half, was a much more serious blow to Donaghadee in a league where substitutions are not allowed. Bobby Harpur moved from 10 to 9, Millar went to outside-half and Chris Hamilton went into the centre. In an instant everyone present realised that this was a deadly, maybe fatal, blow to Donaghadee.
The half still had some exciting moments with UUC’s numbers 10 and 12 making penetrating inroads and Donaghadee’s pack showing their superiority at rolling mauls and upfield progress, but all without tangible result. The new half began with another incident that did Donaghadee little good. A huge fly-hack from a UUC flanker at the back of Donaghadee’s scrum wrong-footed the Donaghadee defence on half-way and a long chase was on. The visitors’ speedy full-back Billy Allen looked favourite in the long chase after the still bounding football, but, as Grand Prix commentators might say, there was a coming together between Allen and the pursuing UUC flanker. The referee’s decision that this had been a deliberate cynical tackle off the ball by Allen surprised many, especially when the official showed the yellow card to the surprised full-back. The simple kick in front of the posts was successful. Now ten-three down, a man off for the duration and another in the sin-bin for ten minutes was a consummation devoutly not to be wished.
Of course UUC did not need any prompting about making use of their numerical superiority. At every opportunity they quite properly targeted Chris McGivern who had now moved to full-back for ten minutes. This much-improving young man dealt most competently with their probing kicks designed to put him under pressure. Then their left-winger had a couple of goes at him down his wing. McGivern showed that he too can tackle, but unfortunately for Donaghadee on one of these runs the tackled winger’s momentum just took him just over the Dee line for 15-3, and the conversion added two more for 17-3.
Gratifyingly for the Donaghadee supporters who had travelled, their team players refused to bow the knee. When their numbers were back to fourteen Donaghadee were still able to mount some worrying attacks, but the UUC defence was resolute, but being a man short saps the strength. With Donaghadee still striving for some kind of compensatory score the game ended a bit abruptly. The UUC were rightly satisfied with their performance, and Donaghadee’s players left the arena knowing that they had some work to do before the next league encounter – against Ballyclare.
Donaghadee team: Billy Allen, Chris McGivern, Richard Millar, Ryan Docherty, Rory Garnham, Bobby Harpur, Alistair Lockhart: Chris Good (c), Gareth Gordon, Chris Schofield, David Thompson, Richard Martindale, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Hamilton and Paul Hamilton.