Lurgan Firsts kicked off their competitive campaign on Saturday with a 17-7 win over the PSNI at Pollock Park in the
first round of the Gordon West Cup.
It was obvious from the outset the game plan for the PSNI was to play a very tight game and try and bully the Lurgan pack into submission. They had, however, underestimated the Lurgan resolve.
The Lurgan scrum demolished the PSNI game plan with the front row of Graham Currie, Josh Greer and Paddy McVeigh dominating their opposite numbers.
After withstanding the initial onslaught by the PSNI, Lurgan slowly began to exert their influence on the game and after 15 minutes took a deserved 3-0 lead through a
Stephen Nolan penalty. Both Pete Foster and Daniel Lyness constantly threatened the PSNI defensive line, and it was the later who made the line break for Lurgan’s first try, hitting the ball at pace before off-loading to the hard working Chris Cassidy to score a try which was converted by Stephen Nolan.
The PSNI struggled with the expansive style of rugby Lurgan were playing and if it was not for unforced errors and poor decision making on Lurgan’s behalf the game would have been over by have time. As it turned out, all Lurgan had to show for their efforts for the remainder of the half was an intercept try by Ben McIlwaine converted again by the ever reliable boot of captain,Stephen Nolan.
Unforced errors allowed the PSNI to exert prolonged pressure on the Lurgan defensive line and they were rewarded with a converted try five minutes into the second half. Despite this setback Lurgan showed great character and
were unlucky not to add to their tally as both Pete Foster and Chris Walmsey came close to scoring. The rest of the game became a war of attrition with no further scores as both sides struggled to gain the ascendancy.
Lurgan Seconds travelled to Belfast to take on Grosvenor Thirds and despite a heroic performance they lost by the narrow margin of 23-20.
With several players forced to take the field out of position, numerous reshuffles and a car load of players getting lost, the game kicked off ten minutes late and all of the combined disruption seemed to affect Lurgan.
They gave away a soft try in the opening minutes and the omens did not look good.
After a rallying call from Jason Kane, the Seconds roared back into the game from the kick-off.
The pack was driven on by the experience of Kennedy and Acheson, with Brian Bassett extremely forceful in the loose and looking like a marvellous signing for Lurgan.
The pressure told within ten minutes as Lurgan secured good field position just inside the Grosvenor half. Out-half Matthew McCormick, who Lurgan supporters were delighted to see back playing again after injury, moved the ball quickly to centre Danny Cairns. From a fairly innocuous field position, Cairns moved forward, side stepping and bamboozling the opposition to run in a remarkable try from 40 metres out, beating at least eight defenders on his way to the line.
The lack of a kicking tee meant the conversion was missed, along with a couple of later kickable chances, but this try galvanised Lurgan into action.
Their dominance up-front continued, and from one penalty kicked to the corner, Lurgan were able to set-up and execute a textbook rolling maul, with Mike Campbell peeling off the side to barge over for the score. The conversion was again missed but Lurgan were in the lead 10-5 as the half time whistle blew.
From kick-off, the pack secured good ball and it was quickly moved to Kris Lyness, who impressed in his first rugby game for two years. He set off on a lung-busting sprint from fully 60 yards out to touch down in the right corner, bringing Lurgan a 15-5 lead.
Unfortunately in scoring the try, Lyness sustained a knee injury which forced him to retire and reduced Lurgan to 14 men. Sadly Lurgan had no replacements to bring on, and Grosvenor used this to their full advantage.
Playing intelligent rugby, they moved the ball wide and away from the dominant Lurgan pack, scoring a penalty and three unanswered tries in a 15 minute spell. Lurgan fought to the last man but simply could not respond as the extra man saw them tire.
With the score at 23-15 after Grosvenor’s final try, Lurgan rallied and with five minutes remaining they battered the defence deep into their own half and Stuart Johnson feinted a pass to Matthew Quinn who roared through the resulting gap to claim the final try and final score of the game.
With the final whistle coming just afterwards, Lurgan felt proud of their performance in difficult circumstances, but nevertheless understandably disappointed to lose the game by such a narrow margin.
With a similar attitude in a busy schedule of upcoming fixtures, Lurgan Seconds are sure to go one better and secure their opening win.
Players are reminded that training on Tuesday and Thursday nights will help bring the Seconds together as a team and sort out some of the technical issues from Saturday. 730 on the pitch Tuesday and Thursday!
Lurgan Seconds would also like to thank the referee and Grosvenor Thirds for not only accommodating them with the delayed kick off, but also for observing an exemplary minutes silence in memory of Club Coach Bruce Cornelius’ father, who sadly passed away last week.