Armagh4 v Ophir2 Match report 16-12017


CITY of ARMAGH 4XV (27) – v – Ophir 2XV (07)

City of Armagh 4XV welcomed Ophir 2XV to the Palace Grounds for this second round tie of the McCambley Cup. With both teams playing in different sections of the league and having not played before there was no previous form to work off which made the tie all the more intriguing.

Armagh playing in their reverse kit due to a clash of shirts started the game the brighter with a penalty early on that was successfully converted by Captain, David Loughran to give Armagh a three point lead. This lead could have been doubled soon after with Loughran’s second effort sailing just wide of the left hand upright.

It was the home team who seemed to be causing all the bother during the early stages of the encounter, the strong running of our forwards in particular Patrick Chapman, Andrew McClenaghan, Paul Cully and Jonny Kirkland was proving very hard to stop and gaining Armagh plenty of ground.

Armagh continued to put their opponents under pressure and it wasn’t long before they had their first try of the game. Armagh had won a free kick and went to touch. The superb Armagh line-out secured the ball and sent the Armagh back line to work. A great drive by Centre, Michael O’Neill saw the hosts break at pace, the ball was sent out the back to full-back, John Johnston who run a smart switch move with the winger outside him only to receive the ball back and cut inside and through many of the Ophir defence before touching down under the posts. The conversion was added by Loughran and Armagh now had a 10-0 lead midway through the first half.

The visitors came back fighting and almost had a try of their own only for some resolute defending by Colm Campbell and Adam Hume who between them managed to hold the ball up over the line. A number of drives shortly after failed to get the job done by the visitors with the disciplined Armagh defence standing strong.

There was to be another score soon after but thankfully it was to be an Armagh one. A great drive from flanker Niall McKee who broke through a few tackles and powered his way across the line to touch down in the corner. The conversion attempt by Loughran was on target however dropped just under the cross bar.

Armagh now held a commanding fifteen point lead, however you could sense a try from the visitors was looming and it wasn’t long before they crossed the white line. The conversion was added and the difference between the sides was reduced to eight points. There was time remaining to restart the game but only just, the ball was knocked on at the restart and kicked out of play following the scrum to bring the action down on an entertaining first half.

Half Time: CITY of ARMAGH 4XV (15) – v – Ophir 2XV (07)

The second half began with a superbly timed re-start being caught by Niall McKee who took off downfield, McKee was successfully tackled and managed to pop the ball up to Scrum-Half Robert Davidson who was running in support. A crunching tackle to Davidson saw him hit the ground grabbing his shoulder in agony. Davidson was forced to retire from the field with what was later diagnosed as a broken collar bone.

Armagh re-shuffled their pack and welcomed the returning David Black back into the fold with Paul Cully moving to 10 and Ross Crozier going back to his familiar Scrum-Half position. The earlier events seemed to unsettle Armagh somewhat for the early parts of the half, thankfully they settled soon after and got back into their old groove.

Another replacement who was making a telling contribution was Gareth Crozier, indeed Gareth was unfortunately held up over the line in what could have been a third Armagh try.

The visitors were using their replacements well and a few positional changes in their back line were beginning to cause Armagh more bother. Much like the first half the Armagh defence would not be broken twice. David Black and Oran Campbell were impressing with their work and discipline at the breakdown.

It was Armagh’s discipline that lead to a feee kick, O’Neill sent the ball towards the half way line to get Armagh out of trouble. The line-out was won and a nice bit of precision kicking by Paul Cully garnered Armagh sufficient territory. Another fine line out was won by Hume and the Armagh maul was driving towards the line, with the ball unplayable the referee signalled a scrum.

From the scrum the ball was kicked out by the opposing second row and Armagh scrum-half Ross Crozier was first to the ball. Ross picked it up just inside the 5m line and made an instinctive dive for the line where he was successful in crossing. The conversion was added by Loughran to leave the scores now at 22-7 to the hosts at the beginning of the fourth quarter of this encounter.

Armagh now with their tails up were playing with increased confidence, they were playing some lovely rugby and were patient in their build-up something that was frustrating their opponents and this was evident in their discipline again being put to the test. In the space of ten minutes Armagh had worked two penalties in kickable positions only for Loughran to miss them both in what was proving to be an off-day for him from the tee.

These two penalty misses were soon to be wiped out as not long after Armagh had their fourth and final try of the afternoon through Centre,Michael O’Neill, a just reward for him given the work he had put in up to that point. The conversion was missed by Loughran but thankfully it was not to be crucial as there was now a twenty point margin between the sides with just five minutes of the tie remaining.

The final five minutes saw a last attempt at a consolation try by the visitors however it was not to be and the referee signalled the end of the game shortly afterwards.

Armagh 4XV extend their unbeaten run so far this season to nine games and are safely through to the quarter final of the McCambley Cup with their opponents to be decided by an open draw after the Christmas holiday period.

The 4XV now have a well earned few weeks off before they travel to Grosvenor 3XV on the 6th January for the first round of the Minor League Premier Division.

Finally everyone would like to wish Robert Davidson a speedy recovery from his injury. We all hope to see Robert back in the red and black shirt of the City of Armagh very soon.

Team (1-15): P. Chapman, G. Graham, A. McClenaghan, P. Cully, A. Hume, O. Campbell, N. McKee, J. Kirkland, R. Davidson, R. Crozier, C. Campbell, M. Allen, M. O’Neill, D. Loughran ©, J. Johnston.

Replacements: G. Crozier, D. Black, C. Mackle

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