Lurgan sat top of the league in Kukri Qualifying 3 with 10 wins out of ten played (nine of these with a bonus point win) as they welcomed second placed Donaghadee (Dee) who also had 10 wins out of ten but with 3 less bonus point wins.Something had to give.
On a dry day with a light cross wind the game immediately came to life as both teams burst into life at a very high tempo with everyone knowing how important this result could be to the rest of their season.
Lurgan’s pack were dominant throughout the match with special mention going to Graham Currie who was at his destructive best. Lurgan’s early pressure yielded two early chances of penalties but these were both missed.
Twelve minutes into the game the Lurgan forwards broke the gain line and sucked in the Dee defence leaving space for Lurgan’s backs to operate. The backs worked the ball from left to right and back to the middle of the field where a wrap around move was ended by a try by scrum half Christopher Jenks as he touched down against the post protector.
This was duly converted by Stephen Nolan.
Donaghadee were having none of it and had a sustained period of pressure which was rewarded by a Lurgan infringement which got them a penalty.
Penalty to Donaghadee on the left side of the pitch that was converted.
After this a game of cat and mouse ensued between the two number tens with each move being cancelled out by the others.
Lurgan broke into the Donaghadee 22 and looked to be headed for a second try when one of the Dee centres intercepted a way ward pass and proceeding to run the full length of the pitch.
The referee blew it back and gave a penalty to Lurgan due to a Dee player being off side. The large crowd of Lurgan supporters gave a collective sigh of relief. If the hard-running rugby was a major talking point so was a number of big hits made by the Lurgan defence especially Neil Adamson and Daniel Lyness. Twenty nine minutes into the game the Dee forwards got a rolling mauling going and worked their way up the field.
Some smart work by the Dee half backs saw them combine well off the back of some go forward ball to score just to the right of the posts.
This was duly converted by their 10
As the game ebbed and flowed towards half time Lurgan’s captain, Dean Wilson made a break sucking in much of the Dee cover defence. He made the perfect pass to Mark McIlwaine who was coming through at pace who finished the move scoring in the right corner.
The difficult kick was missed by Lurgan
Mark McIlwaine scores Lurgan’s second try
The second half was a great display of hard uncompromising rugby with both defences deserving great credit. Dee had the better of the possession in the second half and it was looking ominous when the referee produced a yellow card for one of the Lurgan Forwards.
Now down a man in the scrum this was a time for emptying all of the reserves. Scrum after scrum the Dee pack could not make the extra man count as the clock signalled the end of a pulsating match. A highly charged afternoon finally ended in handshakes as the teams headed to the changing room.
The looks on many of the players faces on both sides said everything that needed to be said. A great effort by this young Lurgan side who have now got the habit of winning. The Lurgan Coach (Bruce Cornelius) and Lurgan Captain (Dean Wilson) were both magnanimous in victory and praised the Dee players for providing what was their hardest game of the season to date.
Every game will be a test of character and endurance for the rest of the season so it’s back to the training field on Tuesday and Thursday nights to work on all of the little things that need further refinement.
Lurgan must now back up this important victory week on week if they are to get promotion from this league.