Cooke welcomed Dromore to Shaw’s Bridge on Saturday for a match between two strongly performing sides.
As predicted prior to the game, the teams were well matched in the first period, sizing each other up with play moving to both ends of the pitch. There was little to choose between them however Cooke enjoyed more possession but handling errors prevented early opportunities being turned into points. Unfortunately this would continue as a theme for the entire match.
Both sides squandered good opportunities coming up to 30 minutes; Dromore kicked a penalty into touch in goal when attempting to secure a 5m line out and Cooke, after pressuring the Dromore fullback into a scuffed clearance kick failed to secure their own throw 7m from the Dromore line.
The clock was on 32 minutes before the deadlock was broken. Dromore drove a clearance kick towards the right touch line, a knock on from Cooke allowed a long kick downfield and the subsequent chase was won by Dromore, Ross Bingham crossed the line and the score increased to 0-7 with a good kick from wide. This was against the general run of play. The game continued to swing to and fro but on half time some weak tackling by Cooke allowed Dromore to cross for their second try from Marcus Heath, this time a much easier conversion was missed. Half time 0-12 with Cooke reflecting on unforced handling errors which cost them some real scoring opportunities.
The early second half very much reflected the first with Cooke enjoying the lions share of the ball but punishing themselves with sloppy handling.
Cooke continued to dominate the play until the 55th minute and were eventually rewarded with a penalty on 25m which Alan Gourley converted to bring the score to 3-12. The fight back brought an immediate response from Dromore. They secured their own ball from a throw near the Cooke line and a strong driving maul from the pack resulted in a try which when converted brought the score to 3-17.
Despite the score line, Cooke continued to enjoy much possession but frustratingly almost every attacking opportunity was undone by an unforced handling error.
Eventually on 65 minutes a good running move and surprisingly slick handling finished with a neat backhand layoff to Andy Nelson and he crossed in the corner for Cooke’s first try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed and the score sat at 8-17.
Following the theme of the afternoon, Cooke continued to work hard and have lots of possession but a strong Dromore defence and further handling slips kept the score at 8-17 until full time.
This was an encouraging Cooke performance in many ways; scrums and line outs were generally good, apart from the second Dromore try the tackling was strong and every player showed skill, guts and determination. This was a good Dromore side, playing with the confidence which comes from winning matches.
It will be the unforced errors which will be the focus in the analysis for Cooke. Without them the outcome may well have been very different.
Next week we (hopefully) entertain Coleraine for the Junior Cup 1st round.