CI victorious in Coolmine Cup encounter
While many pundits were focused on other fixtures in the All Ireland Junior Cup, the eyes of those in the East were focused on the biggest game in Dublin – CI’s quarter final at Coolmine.
A bright autumnal day and a surprisingly firm playing surface greeted the CI team and the vocal group of supporters who had made the trip from Belmont to the impressive Coolmine facilities.
CI started brightly in the first five minutes with the ball being moved well by forwards and backs. An early penalty was wide from Sam Baker before Andy Hodgen made a strong break on the right. The last pass from Hodgen was a little too flat for a stretching McVitty and a definite try scoring opportunity was lost.
Coolmine then enjoyed the majority of possession for the half although the CI defensive system was working well with attackers being repelled.
CI were enjoying dominance in the scrum and were unlucky not to receive a penalty after advancing 5m – Coolmine doing well to maintain their structure in retreat.
A penalty from Coolmine started the scoring. Soon after, a try, that really needed a TMO, was awarded out on the right flank to give the home side a 10-0 lead, the inevitable outcome of CI defending in their own 22 for too long.
CI finished the half brightly. A blindside move saw wing Harry Howard pop the ball to prop Woods who put in a deft touchline grubber that was only narrowly touched down in goal by a Coolmine defender as Howard dived for the score.
Continued CI pressure garnered another penalty opportunity that was converted by Baker to leave the halftime score at 10-3.
There was enough about the CI game when in possession to suggest they could score tries and secure suitable set piece ball.
The second half started with CI focusing on playing on the right areas of the park and an early Baker penalty closed the gap to 10-6.
A CI try followed shortly after, a break by Armstrong being halted short of the line before the ball was popped to McConkey who powered over, carrying Coolmine defenders with him. The conversion was missed but CI now held a narrow 11-10 lead.
CI were enjoying their best spell with good forward carries and breaks from the base of a strong scrum by Armstrong and scrum half Wilson.
A number of forward carries by props Boyd and Greenwood on the right flank tied in Coolmine defenders and created the defensive uncertainty that enabled Baker to sell the dummy and coast through for the crucial score. The conversion stretched CI’s lead to 18-10.
With 7 minutes remaining Coolmine looked to get the game back within one score and converted a mid-range penalty with 3mins left on the clock. 18-13.
CI put themselves under pressure from the restart with Baker kicking out on the full. The Coolmine scoreboard also featured a game clock. This added to a tense finish as the seconds counted down, particularly when it passed the 80mins as CI kicked for touch only for the ref to say the game still had a minute to run.
Shortly after though, a CI clearance did signal the whistle and the celebrations.
While CI only played relatively short spells of their best rugby, they showed good character to make the comeback and secure a deserved win.
Thanks to the vocal traveling support who did their club proud and congratulations to Bangor and Clogher Valley who made it 3 Ulster semi finalists from 4. All teams will look forward to the semi final draw on Thurs.