Following their tremendous victory over City of Derry in their last outing, Armagh travelled to Cork to play their return fixture with Highfield. The home team are pressing to win automatic promotion from Division 2B, so the visitors expected a tough encounter against a team that had won comfortably 15-29 at the Palace Grounds in September.
Armagh kicked off with a stiff breeze at their backs on a heavy surface that had not seen rugby for some considerable time. All the initial pressure was Armagh’s with both backs and forwards combining well when moving the ball.
However as the half proceeded the physically stronger Highfield pack began to exert their authority. The situation wasn’t helped as Armagh were guilty of allowing the opposition too many turnovers at the breakdown. On 21 minutes an Armagh clearing kick ran dead with an attacking scrum being awarded to Highfield. This led to substantial period of pressure inside the Armagh ‘22’. Whilst Armagh defended strongly ,eventually, the Highfield pressure told when they scored their first try from a rolling maul. Just before half-time Armagh closed the gap when Boyd converted a penalty to leave the score 5-3 to the home side.
Armagh were now playing into a wind which they failed to properly utilise in the first half. As a result of a knock on from the restart, Highfield were awarded a penalty which they duly converted increasing their lead to 8-3.
Most of the play was now central between the two ‘22’ metre lines. On 47 minutes Armagh went through a series of excellent phases resulting in Andrew Willis scoring a fine try in the corner. The resultant conversion was missed levelling the score at 8-8.
On 55 minutes Highfield hit back with their second try extending their lead to 13-8. This was added to with a further penalty some 5 minutes later allowing Highfield to stretch their lead to 16-8.
Although things were now looking ominous the visiting side rallied on and went on to dominate the next 15 minutes of the game culminating in James Morton scoring Armagh’s second try. With the score was standing at 16-15 to the home side and Armagh looked likely at this stage to go on and win the match. Unfortunately Highfield were awarded two late penalties to stretch their lead to 22-15.
Armagh returned North with a losing bonus point for their days effort. This was a close fought encounter and Armagh will be slightly disappointed that they did not snatch victory in what was a very good second half performance by the visitors. Certainly they left the field having put in a tremendous shift.
This Saturday, City of Armagh have a home fixture in the Ulster Senior League against City of Derry.
Photo Credits: Ken Redpath