First ever winners of new rugby cup

Lurgan Rugby Club players celebrate after winning the Gordon West Memorial Trophy in April 2000. INLM1612-901con
Lurgan Rugby Club players celebrate after winning the Gordon West Memorial Trophy in April 2000. INLM1612-901con

LURGAN Rugby Club Firsts were the first ever winners of the Qualifying Cup 12 years ago.

The Gordon West Memorial Trophy sat proudly in the trophy cabinet at Pollock Park.

All roads lead to Ravenhill for Lurgan rugby supporters where they joined a sizeable crowd of Strabane supporters to be enthralled by a game of high drama and almost unbearable tension.

After 80 minutes of committed rugby and an almost interminable period of injury time the referee’s whistle heralded a 13-6 victory for Lurgan and celebrations that had not been witnessed at Pollock Park for decades.

The game kicked off in perfect conditions for rugby, a dry pitch, bright sunshine and only the hint of a cooling breeze. Within minutes of the start it was obvious that the two sides were equally matched and that the game was destined to be a thriller.

Having absorbed the early pressure Lurgan began to take control of the game by using the simple tactic of keeping the ball in front of the forwards and forcing Strabane deeper and deeper into their own half.

Lurgan were 3-0 down before winger Michael Gough scored one of the best tries of his career, beating his opposite number and the full back to go over the line. Francois Viljoen added the conversion to give Lurgan a 7-3 half time lead.

Shortly after the restart Viljoen kicked a 40 metre penalty for the three points, much to the pleasure of Lurgan’s travelling support.

Strabane kicked another penalty and Phil Orr kicked a drop goal for Lurgan before, the final whistle, as the Pollock Park side held out for the win.

Michael Gough was Lurgan’s Man of the Match. Never mind his superb try, his chasing, harrying and tackling were top class. He seemed to pop up everywhere.