City of Armagh 4th XV welcomed a PSNI seconds team to the Palace Grounds on Saturday past in what should have been an away fixture however the fixture was reversed owing to the visitors reluctance to travel earlier in the season. This Armagh side had a perfect blend of youth and experience within their ranks much like their opponents.
The lads did not get off to the best of starts conceding an early try following a quick move round the blindside of the scrum and a numerical advantage the PSNI were able to touch down in the corner and a difficult conversion was soon added. It was perhaps exactly the wake up call the hosts needed. From the kick off the Armagh backs ran hard at the PSNI defence, the ball was spread wide and centre Robert Straghan weaved his way through a further five of the visitors defenders before touching down just to the right of the posts. Young Jack Campbell rather unfortunately missed the kick in front of the goals by mid-judging the strong wind against him.
Now with the game level Armagh looked as if they would kick on from here, a lovely afternoon saw perfect conditions for running rugby and that is precisely what Armagh began to do. The Armagh try-scorer had to depart the field and David Agnew entered the fray for his Senior debut. From the kick off Armagh began to press their opponents up the pitch resulting in them gaining some great territory, their work was rewarded with Full back David Agnew touching down to the right of the posts after a lung busting solo run around the PSNI defence. A change of Kicker in Captain David Loughran saw the ball successfully converted albeit with a little help from the left hand upright. The scores were 12-07 to Armagh with the first quarter of the match just over. Complacency began to set in and Armagh let their opponents back in the game. A few missed tackles saw their centre break through the Armagh defensive line and run through to the right of the posts for their second try of the half. The easy conversion was added to see the PSNI take the lead for the second time in the contest with the scores at 12-14 with five minutes remaining of the first half. The restart and resulting exit by Armagh was not a successful one indeed, the lads were pressurised into making a series of infringements around the ruck the PSNI eventually chose a kick at the posts and were successful in extending their lead to five points with the half time score at 12-17 HT to the PSNI.
Armagh began the second half intent on reducing the deficit and thankfully they hadn't too long to wait. Tight head Prop Neil Lutton used all his strength to break through the PSNI line and touch down just to the right of the posts. The conversion was added by David Loughran to see Armagh take the lead for the first time in the game. Both teams had a series of questionable high tackles however one to David Agnew shortly after the restart was arguably the worst. The PSNI were rightfully reduced to 14 men with their winger recieving a yellow card for his actions. For the majority of the 10 minute sin-bin period Armagh could not capitalise on their numerical advantage. A scrum on the left hand side of the field inside the 22 saw the Armagh backs exploit a gap on the far side of the field, David Agnew used every ounce of his pace to get around the visitors stretched defence and touch down in the corner for his second try of a memorable debut.
Unfortunately the conversion was missed to leave the lads with a 24-17 lead going into the final quarter of the contest. Armagh took their foot off the pedal and allowed the PSNI back into the game within minutes their seven point lead was turned into a three point deficit. Following two unconverted tries scored in quick succession. A tense final ten minutes of the game would follow with both teams defending admirably. There was one final score of the game and thankfully it fell to the men in red and black. A re-shuffle of the back line was instrumental in this score. Trevor Girvan moved to his regular Scrum Half position with Robert Straghan returning to 12 and Ross Crozier dropping onto the wing. The forwards worked the ball inside the 22m line and a great run by centre Robert Straghan released winger Ross Crozier who was hot on his tail over the line to touch down in the corner. The tough conversion attempt along the sideline at the 22m intersect was narrowly missed by David Loughran. It was not to be a crucIal conversion though as Armagh ran out worthy winners on a Full Time score line of 29-27.
A second consecutive win leaves Armagh in fourth position in the league. A derby win against Portadown next week would be a real indication of this teams ambition for the season, looking to finish as high in the league as possible and potentially secure a league play off if they can pick up points in their final two away games against Donaghadee and Bangor respectfully. Congratulations to Peter Watson, Kenny Graham and David Agnew on making their Senior debuts at the weekend, hopefully we will continue to see them line out in the red and black of Armagh for the considerable future!1. Robert Nicholl, 2. Gareth Warnock, 3. Neil Lutton, 4. Brian Bassett, 5. Paul Cully, 6. Dave Black, 7. Adam Hume, 8. Jack Gilpin, 9. Ross Crozier, 10. Jack Campbell, 11. John Johnston, 12. Robert Straghan, 13. Kenny Graham, 14. David Loughran, 15. Trevor Girvan 16. Peter Watson, 17. David Agnew, 18. Colin Cochrane
Photo Credits: Ken Redpath