Fresh from being crowned Qualifying One League Champions last week in defeating Donaghadee, on Saturday the side traveled to Cooke and continued their winning ways.
Clogher Valley…… 6
Clogher Valley are league champions
Clogher Valley are the Ulster Qualifying league one champions for the second time in three seasons after a hard fought 6-3 win over Donaghadee last Wednesday night in what was one of their toughest games of the season.
David Black’s side have been ruthless all year but they have also demonstrated an ability to grind out results when the pressure comes on. The long trip east was a challenge and they overcame it well.
Nigel Barker gave the Dee men the lead with a penalty on the half hour but just a couple of minutes later Valley full-back Paul Armstrong drew them level with a similar effort. For most of the second half the Dee dominated territory and possession but fell to a Philip Holme penalty in front of the posts after an intense spell of pressure from Valley. Clogher Valley coaches David Black and Glen Kyle together with Manager Richie Haire will be extremely happy to have escaped from Newtownards Road with a win after a game of bone-crunching intensity and no little skill. In the end of the day the greater size and weight of the Valley pack probably was the very marginal difference between the two sides on the night.
They now can look forward to the round robin qualfiers which will include a home clash against the Connacht qualfiers (Either Monivea, OLBC or Ballinasloe) and trips to Kanturk and Wanderers.
Clogher Valley…….. 26
Valley kicked off with the strong wind at their back and within minutes they were 7-0 up. A penalty was kicked to touch by Holme, Valley won the line out and moved the ball along the backs until Speer with deft hands reversed the direction to Donaldson who cut through the Cooke defence under the posts.
After the restart Cooke won the ball and drove into the Valley 22. Unfortunately for them Ryan Wilson ripped the ball from their player and set up a Valley counter attack. Valley won phase after phase pulling Cooke all over the pitch until prop Primrose drove over from short range. Holme converted an Valley led 14-0 within ten minutes.
Cooke returned to the attack and were moving the ball well through the hands and finding some gaps in Valley’s defence. From one such gap Finlay created good space but the Valley scramble defence stopped him just short but not before conceding a penalty. Cooke converted to close the gap to 14-3.
Valley were now starting to dominate the scrums and when Holme put them deep in Cooke territory with a great kick the scrum pressure forced a Cooke knock on ten metres from their own line. Valley scrum drove them over the line and Ryan Wilson scored Valleys third try. Holme converted for Valley 21-3 lead within thirty minutes.
Cooke continued to attack and with Valley missing tackles were only stopped from scoring by some last ditch defence. Then a Treanor turnover led to Valley moving the ball along backs and creating an overlap but unfortunately the final pass was forward and the move broke down.
Cooke continued to exploit the sides of rucks and mauls and made huge yardage on a number of occasions but were just kept out and half time arrived with Valley leading 21-3 and seemingly comfortable.
However the exertions of three games in seven days started to tell on Valley and Cooke exploited weaknesses in tackling out wide to score two quick tries to narrow the deficit to 21-15. Valley were on the rack and within moments a Cooke penalty reduced the lead further to just three points.
With Bennett now on for Moore in the front row Valley continued to dominate scrums and from one drove Cooke back ten metres. Ryan Wilson picked up and released Best who with a slick reverse pass put Sharkey through a gap for Valleys fourth try and a bonus point.
Cooke continued to attack and when the scrums went uncontested, through Cooke injury, Valley lost an attacking platform. Cooke converted another penalty to reduce the difference again to 26-21 and in the final ten minutes pressurised Valley in their own 22. Cooke had another penalty that they kicked to touch but superb Valley defence stopped the drive and won the scrum. Surprisingly Valley picked up from scrum and ran the ball from defence but were turned over. Cooke attacked the blind side and were just stopped short with Valley getting a scrum. It was with relief for players and spectators alike that Best kicked to touch and Valley had won the game.
Cooke had played with spirit and had scored two tries against a Valley side that has conceded less than eight points per game all season.
Valley now move on to the round robin at Wanderers in Dublin this Saturday but picked up several more injury worries from the game.
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