City of Derry arrived at the Palace Grounds on Saturday as red hot favourites despite having lost to Dungannon in their previous match. City of Armagh had lost to Rainey last time out and had only posted one victory in 2016. The Derry team had also recorded two comfortable wins against Armagh earlier in the season.
Saturday’s game kicked-off with a slight breeze at the backs of the visitors. Within two minutes, the ball was passed to Andrew Willis whose storming run was halted ten metres from the ‘Derry line. Some great rucking from the Armagh pack resulted in prop Daryl Morton force his way over for a try. Armagh’s out-half, Harry Boyd then kicked the conversion giving Armagh a dream start 7 nil up after 5 minutes.
The Derry out-half, Neil Burns, was also on form as he landed two penalties in quick succession tonarrow the score to 7-6. The Armagh forward were winning good possession and putting the visitors under pressure. A further penalty from Boyd extended Armagh’s lead to 10-6. Good defensive play from the home team kept the visitors at bay and two further penalties were kicked by Harry Boyd to give Armagh a deserved 16 – 6 lead as half time approached. Despite further chances Armagh failed to score a second try and the half time whistle went with the home spectators delighted by that first half performance which showed real passion and commitment.
City of Derry started the second half in determined fashion with Richard McCarter now on at out-half, keen to spread the ball at every opportunity. The Armagh backline was stretched at times and good covering tackling prevented the visitors from scoring. The pressure did pay off for the visitors however and winger Logue scored a soft try under the Armagh posts. The conversion closed the score to 16-13 and this try seemed to inspire the visitorswho stepped up the pressure on Armagh. With the lead now at only three points the tension around the big crowd of spectators was nothing short of electric. Harry Boyd eased the pressure momentarily when he landed anotherpenalty to bring the score to 19-13. This was only short-lived as Derry wereawarded another penalty inside the home 22, making it a 3 point game again. Armagh winger, Josh Morton, harshly received a yellow card with only 10 minutes left on the clock and the pressure on the home team mounted again.
With 5 minutes remaining Derry were awarded a penalty thirty metres in front of the Armagh posts. Strangely they kicked into the corner and the magnificent Armagh forwards turned over possession. In the final minute Derry had a further chance to score when their winger sprinted towards the corner only to be tacked by Josh Morton who had returned to the game. A penalty for not releasing the ball allowed Armagh to kick the ball out and the final whistle went with Armagh victorious by 19 points to 16.
This was arguably City of Armagh's best performance of the season in defeating, Derry, the current league leaders. The result delighted the coaching staff who praised the commitment and passion every player on the pitch showed. With 3 games remaining in the All Ireland League the team will be looking to build on this performance with their next match in Cork at Highfield in two weeks time.
Also to note, when any team list gets posted in City of Armagh RFC it’s always taken for granted that there may well be a few Mortons or Faloons selected, whatever the fixture. It only became evident to the spectators in the Armagh Club House on opening the match programme for Saturday’s Ulster Bank League fixture that there would be no less than eleven of the said clans representing the Club.
To be precise ten brothers from no less than five families took to the pitch while the Ulster & ex Connacht flanker, Willie Faloon, was an assistant Club coach on the touch-line.
This degree of family commitment to a Rugby Club must be fairly unique in Ulster Club Rugby, if not, Ulster Sport generally. Certainly, each and every one of the guys are exemplary club members and their commitment on the park is nothing short of outstanding. Indeed, seldom a club fixture is played that at least one Morton or Faloon does not earn the right to be mentioned in despatches. It is only when we hear of the problems being faced by clubs throughout the whole of Ireland due to the shortage of playing members do we realise just how extremely fortunate the City of Armagh RFC is! A sincere thank-you to the clansmen!
Photo Credits: Ken Redpath