THE impressive start to the season by Lurgan under 19s continued with a comprehensive 79-7 win over Donegal on Saturday at Pollock Park.
Immediately from the kick off Lurgan made their intentions clear by playing an expansive, free flowing style of rugby, controlling possession and demonstrating great continuity between backs and forwards.
It took Lurgan only a few minutes to score the first try of the afternoon, when after multiple phases of play the ball was spread across the backline to the prolific Matthew Johnston who touched down in the corner. This pattern of dominance was to continue for the entire game as Donegal struggled to cope with the intensity of Lurgan’s play, and within minutes of the first try Ben McIlwaine scored again. With Johnston adding the conversion Lurgan led 12-0 after only five minutes.
The pressure on the Donegal defensive line was relentless with Paddy McVeigh, Josh Greer and Pete Burke continually making line breaks. Robbie Hannigan was next to score. After good work from McVeigh the ball was recycled by the forwards and fed to Hannigan who powered his way over for a well deserved try.
Lurgan were playing with immense confidence, running the ball at every opportunity and it was only a matter of minutes before the Donegal defensive line was breached again. A well rehearsed backline move allowed Johnston to make the initial break, and when the ball was recycled Andrew Gray was in support to score a try which was converted by Johnston.
Josh Greer was next to score as he showed superb strength and determination to break several tackles before outpacing the Donegal cover defence to touch down. The Lurgan backline, with new signing Ross Gardiner and marshalled by Jamie Clarke, looked dangerous all afternoon offensively and before half time Lurgan scored a further two tries, the first an excellent individual effort by Hannigan and the second an equally sublime effort from Daniel Cairns. With McIlwaine adding both conversions Lurgan led by 43 points, until a lapse in concentration allowed Donegal to score.
With half-time approaching, man-of –the-match Cairns completed his hat-trick by scoring two tries in quick succession, the second of which will surely be a candidate for try of the season. Receiving the ball deep in his own half he danced his way through the Donegal defence before showing blistering acceleration to outpace the cover defenders and score under the posts. McIlwaine added the conversion to leave the half time score 55-7.
Unfortunately for Donegal the second half started as the first had finished with Lurgan on the offensive. Lurgan forwards, with the introduction of David Dixon and Luke Thompson, continued to dominate the tight exchanges providing a great platform for the backline to attack. After another attack brought play within the Donegal half, Johnston cut in from his wing position to slice through the defensive line to score his second try, which was converted by McIlwaine to take the score to 62-7.
At this stage Lurgan looked like they could score at will. They continued to show composure in possession and after several phases of play, the ball was again spread across the backline to Gardiner who timed his pass to perfection to put Tim Turkington in the clear for a well earned try. Straight from the re-start Lurgan scored again. The forwards provided the platform as Pete Burke collected a perfectly placed kick through by Dylan Gill to touch down under the posts to make the conversion a formality.
Shortly afterwards, Johnston completed his hat-trick, after an excellent initial break by Andrew White and with 20 minutes still remaining the referee called a halt to the game, leaving the final score 79-7.