With ten All-Ireland League games under their belts, five of which they have already won, Saturday saw the Armagh side set off for Dublin to play Bective Rangers. To a man the Armagh team realised that they had under-performed last Saturday when they let Sundays Well steal a 14-16 win at the Palace Grounds. The Armagh coaches had stressed at the mid-week training sessions that, in order to keep in touch with the upper half of the league a win in Dublin, a win was imperative this week.
Bective Rangers club shares the Donnybrook Stadium with Old Wesley club. This famous ground has been the venue of many memorable & historic games over a long period of time. Indeed, it was the home ground for the Leinster inter-provincial side until they moved down the road to the RDS grounds recently.
Over the Summer past an artificial ‘3G’ pitch has been installed to replace the somewhat overused Donnybrook pitch. This would be the first match the Armagh side would play on such a surface. Apparently the ‘bounce’ characteristics of such a surface can prove somewhat confusing to the unfamiliar! The greatest asset must be the superb drainage properties bearing in mind the dreadful rainfall that grounds all over the country have been experiencing since Christmas. As it was this surface presented a carpet-like texture which was to encourage open rugby.
The game kicked off in near perfect conditions but within three minutes a Bective forward was penalised for handling in a ruck just to the right of the home posts. Matthew Steenson’s kick, however, went just wide of the posts on this occasion. As play continued it became obvious that the superb playing surface was to contribute to a fast open game! The play was, however, mostly in the Bective half with Armagh exerting serious pressure on the home side. Eventually this pressure led to the home backs being caught off-side inside their ’22’. On this occasion Matthew Steenson’ kick was on target to put Armagh into a slender 0-3 lead. Strong runs from Andrew Willis, Neil Faloon, and Joshua McKinley all failed to put any points on the board before the break but it was evident that Armagh were beginning to dominate in all quarters. The Armagh front five were seen to take control of the scrums but were deprived a push-over try when the referee judged that the front row were not exerting the push evenly!
This dominance, however, almost collapsed just before the break when it was Armagh’s turn to be caught off-side right in front of their posts. The Bective kick,alarmingly, drifted wide to deprive the home team any chance to even the score on the stroke of half-time.
As the second half got under way the Armagh pressure continued featuring a strong run from winger, Josh Morton. He was seen to get clear of his opposite number only to have the ball knocked from his hand just as he was about to touch-down in the left corner. Neil Faloon, however, did manage to score the only try of the game as he broke through in the last quarter. The conversion went just right of the posts. Johnny Pollock attempted a penalty kick ten minutes from the final whistle when he attempted a long range 40 metre shot. The ball bounced on the cross-bar just to fall the wrong side!
Both sides were seen to be sin binned: Armagh received three card and Bective four. Indeed the game was reduced to uncontested scrums as the home side’s front row experienced multiple injuries.
A scrappy, untidy game ended with the score 0-8 representing a fair reflection of both team’s efforts. The Armagh coaches were content to take four league points home and to deprive the home side a losing bonus point seemed just reward for the afternoon’s efforts.
Next week sees our team return back to Dublin to play the re-scheduled fixture against Seapoint. Again, the Armagh team will be required to put in a top performance if they are to hold on to their fifth spot in the Ulster Bank League.
Photo Credits: Ken Redpath