Match report by Geoff Ingham
Photo Credit: Ian Adamson
Donaghadee welcomed Virginia to Donaldson Park on Saturday for a Championship 2 League encounter.
Although relegation looks like a certainty this season, this young Dee team were hoping for a win to boost their morale. Noah Greenald and Paul Hamilton came into the front row and Robbie Grant returned at number eight. Although Matthew Stockton was unavailable, Mark Cooper, Pete Callaghan and Danny McBride all returned to the backline. It was also great to see Chris Hamilton making his first appearance of the season and he was joined on the bench by Davy Skipp and Sam Ingham.
An early morning pitch inspection had deemed it playable, but the moist surface was not conducive to free-flowing rugby. Virginia started brightly and before they knew it Dee were 7-0 down when a Dee defender shot out of the line allowing the Virginia fullback to sprint through the gap and touched down under the posts.
This shocked the Dee into action and they spent the next fifteen minutes encamped in the Virginia half. Although ball retention was good, Dee were not able to find the killer blow that would result in a score. In the 25th minute the Virginia centre burst through the Dee’s defence in his own half and made 30 meters before finding support. Virginia recycled the ball a couple of times before creating an overlap which gave their winger an easy run in to score. The conversion was successful to push the score to 14-0.
Dee were back in the game five minutes later when Paul Hamilton eventually crashed over after some fine drives by Sam Ingham, Nathan Boyd and Sam Moore. McBride converted to leave the score 14-7 at half time.
With the Dee now playing with the conditions at their backs the supporters believed that a win was a possibility. The Dee immediately took the upper hand and soon found themselves in Virginia’s 22. After several phases they spun the ball wide but due to a handling error the ball bounced into the Virginia fullback’s hands. He kicked long into the Dee’s half and then won the race for the ball. The Dee fullback was the only man back and a deliberate knock-on saw him sent to the bin as the referee awarded a penalty try to make the score 21-7 to Virginia.
The Dee regrouped and set about attacking Virginia’s line. Wave after wave of forwards drives could not break down Virginia’s resolute defence, even after Virginia lost a player to the sin bin for a high tackle. As the game entered the final quarter the Dee were yet again deep in the visitor’s 22. With the need to do something different to score, it was Robbie Ingham who put in a delightful chip over the line and Mark Cooper ran through, caught the ball and touched down. McBride kicked the easy conversion to cut the deficit to seven points.
As the game drew to a close Dee pushed hard to get the equalising score but it was not to be. In the last play of the game the Virginia winger picked up a loose ball after another handling error by the Dee and ran all the way to the Dee’s line to score. The conversion was successful and the referee blew for full time with the score 28-14 to Virginia.
A frustrating day for the Dee as it felt that they were the better team for most of the game, however, gifted the opposition at least three of the four tries. There were plenty of good individual performances on the day including Sam Moore in the front row and the experienced Chris Hamilton in the back row. However, the Copeland Spirits Player-of-the-Match this week goes to Robbie Ingham who put in a great defensive shift and was involved in the majority of Dee’s attacks.
Next week the Dee travel to Pollock Park, Lurgan for another league game, k.0 2.30pm