LURGAN under 19s extended their unbeaten start to the season with a 20-8 win over old rivals Portadown on Saturday.
Portadown arrived at Pollock Park full of confidence, undefeated and boasting four Ulster under 18 players but left with their unbeaten record in tatters and their egos deflated.
With such intense rivalry between the two clubs this was always going to be a very physical and fiercely contested game, and from the initial exchanges to the final whistle both sides gave everything in a thoroughly enthralling game of rugby.
With barely five minutes played Lurgan made the breakthrough when Matthew Johnston, who missed the Ulster U18 Club inter-provisional series through injury, proved his pedigree by scoring the first of his two tries as he powered past his opposite number to touch down in the corner. His second try came midway through the second half, when he intercepted a Portadown backline move after Daniel Cairns pressurised his opposite number into a mistake.
After the initial score Lurgan struggled to assert themselves throughout the remainder of the first half due to a catalogue of unforced errors and a continual concession of penalties. This allowed Portadown to control both territory and possession, which they converted into points through a penalty and an unconverted try to lead 8-5 at half-time.
The second half proved to be a different affair, as Lurgan began to dominate the contact areas, playing with a ferocity and intensity which was lacking in the first half. Portadown struggled to get out of their own half as Lurgan’s defensive efforts intensified, in particular by Josh Lyness who put in one big hit after another.
Josh Greer, Luke Thompson and Andrew Gray began to control the scrum, while Pete Burke and Robbie Hannigan exerted their physical presence in open play. Dylan Gill orchestrated play from scrum half and Ben McIlwaine continually troubled the Portadown defence with his direct running. With ten minutes of the second half played, Daniel Cairns, who looked dangerous throughout, showed his blistering pace to score a try which was converted by Johnston.
Shortly afterwards Johnston added a penalty before scoring his second try of the game to bring the score to 20-8. Lurgan’s second half dominance was not however truly reflected in the final scoreline with a total of 11 points being squandered as three penalties and a seemingly easy conversion being missed.
The sweetness of the victory however was soured by serious injuries incurred by two Lurgan players. Matthew McCormick was forced to leave the pitch after only ten minutes with a dislocated shoulder and Robbie Hannigan, who exemplified true Lurgan spirit, grit and character by playing the majority of the game with an injury which was later diagnosed as a broken hand. The coaches and players wish both players a speedy recovery.