Firsts make positive start to new season
The Bank Holiday meant that numbers were depleted at Shaw’s Bridge on Saturday but those present witnessed a highly entertaining game.
The much more physical Coleraine side made their presence felt early on with Cooke forced to defend in their own half for the first 5 minutes. Prospects for the home side looked ominous when the Cooke pack retreated 5 metres in the first scrum. The first scoring opportunity came when Coleraine was awarded a penalty well inside the Cooke half though Coleraine kicker Sidla was off target.
Having had to defend for the first 10 minutes the Cooke backs then showed their attacking prowess. The ball was spread to speedy right winger Andy Pollock who passed inside to fullback Cartmill who out-paced the cover to touch down under the posts. Alan Gourley converted. Shortly afterwards Cooke were penalised on their 22 allowing Coleraine 10, Sidla, to claim back 3 points.
Play then moved back into Coleraine territory and it was the turn of Cooke 10, Gourley, to go wide with a penalty kick on his opponents 22. Cooke’s next try came about through the endeavour of captain Kyle Mitchell. The centre broke away from a ruck on the halfway before linking with winger Andy Nelson who touched down for Gourley to convert. Sidla reduced the Coleraine arrears to 14 : 6 with a penalty after the restart while a Gourley kick at goal went astray shortly afterwards.
Cooke finished the half strongly with prop Jonathan McClune having the line at his mercy but denied glory when the pass he received was deemed forward.
Half time Cooke 14 : Coleraine 6
Cooke reconfigured the team after half time with Hunter and Gourley replaced by Backus and Hanna and were probably denied a further try when Phil Cartmill’s chip ahead for winger Nelson was slapped into touch by a Coleraine defender. Coleraine prop Cillian Butler received a yellow card shortly afterwards for killing the ball in a ruck but Hanna’s penalty attempt went wide.
Cooke took advantage and when Michael Cartmill broke through on the half way was hauled down just short of the Coleraine line by an excellent cover tackle. The same player left the field shortly afterwards with a nasty head wound.
The attrition was taking its toll on the visitors and a further onslaught by the Cooke backs was finished off by a try for scrum-half Ryan Flavelle. Hanna’s conversion attempt rebounded of the upright resulting in a final score of
Cooke 19 : Coleraine 6
This was a very encouraging start for Cooke albeit against a less threatening Coleraine side than encountered in previous games. Both teams had a number of absences due to holidays but this was a very gritty performance from a young Cooke XV. The scrum settled well after an initial misfire and the co-ordination between hooker Curtis Montgomery and main line-out jumper Jonathan Walsh worked extremely well. The Cooke back row of Harper, Anderson and Lyons worked tirelessly while bulky second row Crothers was a constant menace in loose play. An interesting selection dilemma is anticipated before next week’s visit to Portadown.