COOKSTOWN RFC wrapped up their preparations for the incoming league with a very useful run out against qualifying 3 outfit Derry YM.
Although the game resulted in another defeat for the team, the boys can take a lot of positives out of the performance, particularly the impact of new players; Ciaran McKenna, Denver Nugent and Kevin Nugent.
The first half began with Cookstown on the backfoot as the Derry YM pack dominated the early exchanges. With an abundance of clean and quick ball, the Derry YM backline were able to clock up the phases which set up space for their strong mobile backrow to pound the Cookstown backline.
As a result Derry YM were 18–0 up with thirty minutes on the clock; mainly due to some feeble attempts at tackling and ill discipline. It wasn’t until the team lost JP Reah to the sin bin that the boys decided to play rugby. The final ten minutes saw Cookstown lay siege to the Derry YM try line with team captain Ryan Eastwood and centre Marty Devlin coming close to score.
Derry YM were no doubt relieved to hear the half time whistle as it allowed them time to recover and congratulate themselves.
On the other side the Coosktown boys were told a few home truths by furious team manager Mark Brown. A different and fired up Cookstown side to took to the field for the second half and completely turned the tables on Derry YM. In the scrums the tight five were getting the upper hand, second rower Adam Stinson completely dominated the lineouts and in the loose, Owen Mallon gave an exhibition of aggressive rucking and hard tackling.
With a good platform, and plenty of ball the Cookstown backs started to penetrate the Derry YM defence. Outhalf Ciaran McKenna used his boot to good effect and exploited the space behind the rushing Derry YM defence. One such occasion saw Cookstown score a fine try when Ciaran collected his own Garryowen and break clear to set up Captain Ryan Eastwood for well taken try. Soon after outside centre Denver Nugent forced his way through two tackles and sold an audacious sidestep to the covering fullback, after a passage of fine handling and off-loading the ball was sent to the supporting Ciaran McKenna who dotted down in the corner. Both tries were converted by the bearded Dave Weir.
The remainder of the half saw Cookstown repeatedly come close to scoring again but unfortunately errors undermined any opportunities. One occasion saw Derry YM secure a turnover where they broke up the field and won a penalty. Upon hearing it was the last kick of the game, the ball was promptly drop kicked over the bar by a relieved Derry YM outhalf and the referee sounded the final whistle.
Despite the disappointment of another defeat, the players and management can take a lot of positives from the game, particularly the defence and set pieces. Team manager Mark Brown praised Ciaran McKenna for his excellent performance at fly half. He also warned the team that they can no longer afford to start games in such a slow fashion as they did today.
Team captain Ryan Eastwood reflected these sentiments and further commented that “there are certainly a few selection dilemmas ahead of next week’s fixture and whilst this is a problem it is a most welcome one. Therefore I urge a big turn out at training this week ahead of Ballynahinch.”
Training continues on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm in Drapersfield. The first league fixture of the season sees Cookstown at home against a tough Ballynahinch side. The game kicks off at 2.30pm at Mid Ulster Sports Arena. Everyone is welcome to come and show their support, there will be refreshments served in Mulligans Bar after the game.