Kukri Rugby Championship Section 1
Cooke scored a much needed win at Shaws Bridge against Dromore on Saturday afternoon to blow open the race for All-Ireland Cup spots. An away win for the in form County Down side could’ve seen them open up a nine point gap between themselves and their South Belfast hosts, but a spirited defensive display in the second half saw Cooke hold on for a deserved win.
The home side started the brighter and were keen to run the ball at every opportunity. Their adventurous style of play was rewarded in the 7th minute when Kyle Mitchell’s pass skipped Philip Cartmill and hit winger Andrew Pollock. The blonde haired flyer still had plenty of work to do as he raced in to the Dromore 22. With McDonald and McClearn covering a chip over the top of the Dromore defence looked to be dealt with by Steenson, but the bounce of the ball deceived the covering scrum-half and fell kindly for Pollock to touchdown. Alan Gourley made no mistake with the conversion. Dromore fought back and almost got in for a score of their own six minutes later from a lineout but a great defensive effort led by Alex Gourley and Jonathan Walsh kept the visitors at bay.
Things got better for the hosts on 25 minutes when they doubled their lead to 14-0. Strong runs from McClune, Alex Gourley and Mitchell forced Dromore into conceding a penalty which they kicked to the corner. From the lineout Liam Bennett got the touchdown after a rolling maul. Again Alan Gourley made no mistake from the conversion. Dromore fought their way back into the contest on the half hour mark following some scrappy play from both sides on half way. A Steenson box kick was contested by McClearn and Cregan and with no one able to secure the ball, Steenson pounced to kick through and show some fine soccer skills to beat the covering Nelson to score Dromore’s first try of the day in the corner. His conversion into the breeze just dropped short and at the break Cooke led 14-05.
Dromore came a different side in the second half and led by flanker Adam McGregor, skipper Jonny Maguire and second row Matthew McMaster they continually ran at the home defence. Credit to the Cooke defence who set their stall out to frustrate the visitors and great defence again denied Dromore a second try right at the start of the second half. Frustrations did come to boiling point in the 46th minute and referee Mitchell issued yellow cards to Cookes’s Andrew Quigley and Dromore’s Matthew McMaster.
Dromore were eventually given an avenue to get back into the game on the hour mark but Steenson’s penalty came back off the post much to the relief and surprise of those in attendance. At this point both sides were back to the full complement of fifteen players, but another yellow card saw Cooke back to fourteen after 62 minutes. Philip Cartmill feeling the wrath of Referee Mitchell for a high tackle. Eventually Dromore got some reward for their dominance when out-half Aaron Stewart slotted over a penalty on 67 minutes.
Dromore continued to run the ball at a tiring home defence but some great tackling from Flavelle and Cregan kept the visitors at bay. The titanic defensive effort began to take it’s toll though and Cooke lost Callum Robinson to an injury in the 70th minute, and with no substitutes left, had to see the game out with 14 players. With one last throw of the dice Dromore attacked down the Cooke left but more great tackling saw a knock on from the visitors and Lee Steenson picked up a yellow card for a lunging tackle with his foot as frustrations began to show. From the resulting penalty Gourley kicked to touch and clinch a deserved victory.
A frustrating day for Dromore who despite the best efforts of McClearn and McDonald just couldn’t breach a watertight home defence in which Kyle Mitchell and Jonathan Walsh were exceptional, as was loose head Jonathan McClune who also carried well for the home team.
Cooke: Jonathan McClune, Curtis Montgomery, Deaglan McErlean, Andrew Quigley, Matthew Carothers, Alex Gourley (Capt), Callum Robinson, Jonathan Walsh, Ryan Flavelle, Alan Gourley, Andrew Pollock, Kyle Mitchell, Philip Cartmill, Andrew Nelson, Colm Cregan. Replacements: Liam Bennett, Jonathan Backus.
Dromore: Mark Hylands, Fraser Mulholland, Clarkson McLeod, Matthew McMaster, Ross Bingham, Blair McDonald, Adam McGregor, Jonny Maguire (Capt), Lee Steenson, Aaron Stewart, Andrew Rutledge, Graeme McCandless, Michael Allen, Brian McClearn, Adam McDonald. Replacements: Stuart Sloan, Aaron McKinstry.
This win lifts Cooke up to fifth at the expense of CIYMS who lost heavily at home to Instonians. After Carrick’s surprise loss in Clogher Inst move into second position seven points adrift of leaders Ballyclare who saw off Portadown. Enniskillen remain in the relegation mix after losing 15-5 in Coleraine.
The next round of fixtures will take place on Saturday 16th December and will see CIYMS host Cooke, Dromore entertain Coleraine, Instonians will welcome Portadown to Shaws Bridge and Enniskillen will have home advantage against Clogher Valley in a huge bottom of the table clash.