Cooke v Armagh 2nds Conference League 6 October 2018
Spectators at this Conference League game witnessed 10 tries as both teams played attacking rugby in perfect conditions.
The sides showed willingness to run the ball wide from the outset and despite a strong start by the home team it was Armagh flanker, Ryan O’Neill, who registered the first score after some poor tackling let him cross close to the posts. His out-half, Kyle Falloon, added the simple conversion. Cooke continued to dominate play in the first quarter but time after time squandered certain try scoring opportunities due to a combination of tactical and handling errors. Cooke anxiety to claim the game early on resulted is a high number of unnecessary penalties and it was not until 26 minutes that home centre, Jonny Backus, finally broke a solid Armagh defensive line with an Andy Hanna conversion levelling the score at 7 all.
Cooke had only themselves to blame for Armagh’s next try by prop John Clark with poor passing and tackling punished by another converted try. Home captain Kyle Mitchell balanced the score sheet again just before half time taking the ball on following a strong Cooke scrum for Hanna to convert. The half time score of 14 : 14 reflected a failure by the home side to finish off several scoring opportunities while their experienced opponents cashed in during infrequent visits into Cooke territory.
Armagh were much more composed in the second half. The Orchard County men nudged ahead after 10 minutes when strong running centre, John Falloon, barged over for brother Kyle to convert and bagged another 7 points when the second row crossed the line after some poor defensive play by the home side. The pressure on Cooke was now evident and a reckless pass by the Cooke defence in their own 22 was intercepted by Armagh centre Luke Crozier to score his side’s 5th converted try and stretch the Armagh lead to 14 : 35.
With 10 minutes remaining, hard working Cooke second row, Matty Crothers, crashed over under the posts for replacement out-half Rob Mitchell to convert in what looked like a final consolation score. However spectators were treated to two further tries in the dying minutes. Another careless pass from Cooke as they threatened the Armagh line was incepted by Ryan O’Neill who sprinted the length of the pitch to claim his second try and a six from six conversion tally for Kyle Falloon. From the restart Cooke continued their endeavours and were rewarded by an injury time try by the ever present Crothers bringing an enjoyable game to an end at Cooke 26 : Armagh 42
This was a disappointing result for Cooke but encouragement is to be taken for the team’s willingness to play an exciting brand of rugby. The young pack was again very solid in the scrum but lost too many line-outs and should remember the adage “practice makes perfect”! Competition for places is likely to cause a few selection headaches for coaches Colin Atkinson and Phil Cartmill before next week’s encounter with league leaders Ballyclare.