City of Armagh maintained their position at the top of Division 2B with a comfortable bonus point win on Saturday against a spirited Skerries team.
The heavy rain of the previous 24 hours had thankfully ceased and the Palace Grounds pitch was in near perfect condition as Skerries kicked off into a light breeze. The visitors started brightly in the early stages but Armagh got the first points on the scoreboard when Harvey Young converted a penalty after James Morton had broke from a lineout and Skerries infringed at the breakdown. The kick went in off the upright for a 3 nil lead on the 10 minute mark.
Two minutes later, a sweeping move across the Armagh backline saw full-back Kyle Faloon burst through the Skerries defence for an excellent try under the posts. Young’s conversion brought the score to 10-0.
From the kick off, Josh McKinley made a break but a penalty to Skerries returned play to the Armagh 22. The home team were making some unforced errors and Skerries were enjoying ample possession. On 24 minutes a loose ball in the Skerries half was fly-hacked twice down the pitch. Armagh didn’t clear the danger and winger Eddie O’Mahoney squeezed over for a try by the corner flag. The conversion was narrowly missed and Skerries were well in the match at 10-5.
Armagh responded and winger John Faloon made a strong run into the visitor’s half. The ball was recycled and captain Ali Birch made 30 metres to score Armagh’s second try. An excellent conversion from out wide by Young brought the scoreline to 17-5.
The outhalf then made a break himself a few minutes later but the supporting player knocked on and the scoring chance was lost. Both teams were making handling errors and the first half came to a close with no further scores. Skerries began the second half running the ball from deep but the Armagh defence held firm. Turnover ball saw the home team threaten the Skerries line but a penalty for not releasing on the ground saw Skerries relieve the pressure.
Eight minutes into the second period, Armagh scored their third try of the match and it started from a scrum on the halfway line. The ball was moved quickly to Andrew Willis and the big winger made forty metres before passing inside to David Swann to score in the corner. Young was on form with his kicking and the touchline kick was successful to give the home team a 24-5 lead.
Armagh pressed for a further score and centre Chris Colvin had an excellent break which James Morton carried on. A penalty to the visitors brought the attack to an end a great clearance kick returned play back to the Armagh half. Skerries had a chance of a further score when a penalty was kicked in to the corner but a knock on turned over possession. Midway through the half, the visitor’s enterprising play was rewarded when scrum half Carron broke from the halfway line and good support play resulted in an unconverted try to the left of the posts.
With the score at 24-10, Armagh were still in search of their bonus point try. A penalty against the visitors was kicked to touch and the home team then exerted pressure for a 10 minute spell in the Skerries 22. A lineout drive was stopped short of the line and several forwards failed to cross after pick and drives as Skerries’ excellent defence held Armagh at bay. A number of 5 metre scrums were awarded and when the Skerries flanker dived into the Armagh side, referee Gary Glennon had no option but to award a penalty try. The successful conversion brought the scoreline to 31-10.
The final quarter saw plenty of running rugby from both teams which kept the large crowd of spectators entertained. Skerries again pressed for another score but Armagh defended their line well and broke out of defence with Harry Doyle leading the way with a kick ahead.
Skerries continued to attack and Armagh hooker Swann received a yellow card as the game entered the final 5 minutes. From a scrum five metres from their own line, Birch was able to break on the blind side and made 50 metres up the pitch. The supporting players brought play right up to the Skerries line and Chris Colvin dived over from 5 metres to score Armagh’s fifth try of the match. With no conversion, the final score was 36-10 to Armagh.
The Armagh coaching team were pleased the side had secured another bonus point victory. Skerries contributed to an entertaining game as both sides played expansive rugby however the high number of handling errors is an area the team needs to improve on.
This Saturday City of Armagh have an away match at NUIM Barnhall who are fifth in the league table, so the visitors will need to be at their best to continue their winning run.
Photo Credits: Ken Redpath