Long standing local rivals met on a crisp but bright Saturday afternoon to play out what turned out to be a very entertaining contest at Shaw’s Bridge. Cooke won the toss and elected to play with the cold breeze at their backs in the first half however they struggled to make the most of the elements and after some ill discipline found themselves camped in their own territory for the first quarter of the game. The pressure told and a well organised Malone side were soon on the scoreboard, their inside center with a powerful finish from 5 meters out after a solid scrum from the away side laid the platform. Cooke responded well and won a penalty of their own on their first foray in to Malone territory, David Elliott choosing to kick for the posts from right in front made no mistake to reduce the deficit to 2 points. From the resulting kick off, Cooke maintained possession and before long found themselves back in the Malone half. Having won another penalty in a similar position to one previous Elliott once again made no mistake with his attempt at goal to give the hosts the lead for the first time. Malone soon rallied and went on to dominate possession and field position and were rewarded with two more scores before the interval, one a cumulative effort from their pack to get over from close range and the second another fine finish with their 12 picking a good line to carve through the Cooke defence and score under the posts from about 20 meters out. With the score now standing at 17-6 to the visitors and time running out in the second half Cooke finally managed to apply some pressure keeping ball in hand and making their way up the Malone 22 for the first time. With time running out on the half Cooke were awarded a penalty wide on the right hand side. Choosing to trust their solid scrum, Cooke fed the ball the backs who converted a well executed training ground move for full-back Colm Creggan to split the opposition centers and finish smartly under the posts, Elliott added the extras for a half time score of 13-17.
With Cooke perhaps fortunate to be within one score at the break they looked determined to start the second half brightly. However straight from the kick off and after a nice off-load from the catcher Malone broke straight through some weak defence to take them deep in to Cooke territory. Malone would stay here keeping the ball for several phases before until eventually being rewarded with a penalty try as Cooke found themselves short out wide and with the defence scrambling could only prevent a try with a high tackle in the corner. The referee adjudged a try would have been scored had it not been for the illegal intervention and Malone had the first maximum of the second half. Cooke had the better of the next phase of the game, linking up nicely out behind but despite looking dangerous failed to convert any chances but did look unlucky to have a try disallowed for a foot in touch. In chasing the game and perhaps pushing too hard they gave up a simple intercept try with the Malone winger finishing in the corner from deep in his own half. The conversation once again went begging and the score stood at 13-29. Another quick score after some poor Cooke tackling allowed Malone a healthy cushion leading 34-13 going in to the last 15 minutes after another missed conversation. At this point Cooke could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel however they continued to play an expansive style as they had tried all afternoon and soon got their reward, after a couple of good line breaks and several phases they found themselves in the shadow of the Malone posts with an overlap looming only to be denied by an intentional knock on as they moved the ball away from the ruck. The referee well positioned to see the incident duly awarded a penalty try and the offender was shown a yellow card. This seemed to galvanize the Cooke side and they found some extra energy from the kick off, putting two or three phases together they eventually found a hole in the away defensive line and after some neat link up play looked to have sent their winger in the corner for a fantastic team try. However an outstanding cover tackle resulting in the hosts coming up just short, the ball was then slowed down, illegally in the referees eyes and some quick thinking with a quick tap penalty allowed Cooke to put the ball through two pairs of hands culminating with center Johnny Kingham crashing over under the posts for a deserved score. With the simple conversation added and 5 minutes to go Cooke tasted an unlikely draw with the deficit now just 7 points. Despite a magnificent effort a couple of passes went astray when it looked like Cooke had manufactured the overlap which may have led to an equaling score, Malone held on for a bonus point victory and the hosts had to be content with a valiant bonus point in defeat.