1st XV win Christmas derby with Cooke

Bonus point win in Christmas derby against Cooke could prove very important as we move into second half of the Championship Division 1 league

Instonians 27 – Cooke 24
Date: 2-30 pm Saturday, 29 December 18
Venue: Shaw’s Bridge
Fixture: Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1
Conditions: Pleasant, dry day with light wind from the west

Instonians took the field in this home derby game against neighbours Cooke knowing that nothing less than a five-point bonus point win would be enough if they were to keep in touch with league leaders Ballyclare. This is what they got, but not without a struggle in what turned out to be a very closely contested game.

The win became all the more important when the news came through that Ballyclare had slipped up away to Dromore. This now leaves the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship wide open again as we move into the second half of the league in the New Year. Ballyclare still lead with 37 points, Instonians move into second place with 36 and unbeaten Dromore lie third with 35 points. The second part of the season promises to be very exciting.

Instonians had a couple of enforced changes in their starting line up since their last outing against Carrick a few weeks ago. Big number 8 James Martin was out with a groin injury and this meant Massimo Kiri Kiri moving across from flanker letting in Tom Matthews at blindside flank with Paddy Bell moving from centre to openside. They were pleased to welcome back captain David Scott to partner Matt Kilpatrick in the centre. Robert McGibbon, normally a backrow player, covered for Colm Cregan on the wing.

Instonians kicked off with a light wind at their backs but infringed almost immediately with a high tackle on the opposition 40 metre line. They soon had a couple of penalties of their own, the second of which was moved 10 metres forward after Cooke dissented. This allowed Instonians to kick for a line out just 8 metres out. The maul from this was brought down but Instonians were not able to take advantage after moving the ball wide. They used the second maul from this penalty to much greater effect. They bombarded the Cooke line several times before moving it wide again. This time Davey Scott proved unstoppable as he crashed over for the try from close in. Andrew Keane’s conversion hit the cross bar but bounced up and over to leave the score at 7-0 in Instonians’ favour after 7 minutes.

Cooke retrieved the restart kick and swarmed into the Instonian 22 but after a period of good ball retention they eventually knocked on to give Instonians a relieving scrum just 15 metres out. From this Paul Marshall put in an amazing long-range touch kick which resulted in a line out on the Cooke 22. Both sides exchanged kicks before an overly ambitious one was kicked dead to give Cooke a scrum back on their 40 metre line. They showed their ambition and ran the ball wide from this and were rewarded when Instonians were “pulled up” for a high tackle. From the line out Cooke made a clean break through the middle as Instonian concentration lapsed. Once through it proved too simple as the Instonian cover failed to pick up the supporting player who ran in unopposed for a very good converted try. It was now 7-7 after 15 minutes.

Cooke continued to show their ambition as they ran the ball wide whenever possible. An opportunity was lost when they kicked out on the full to give Instonians a line out just outside the Cooke 22. Another strong maul took play into the opposition 22 and forced an attacking scrum. The opportunity was squandered when the ball was kicked and Cooke regathered and tried to run out of their 22 but a pass went off an Instonian head into touch. Cooke lost the line out and gave Instonians the chance to attack again by moving the ball wide. Winger Ross O’Donnell appeared to slip just as he was being tackled and hit his head on the ground which resulted in a lengthy stoppage while he received medical attention. Eventually he was able to walk from the field but played no further part in the game. He was replaced by Wayne Kelly. At the restart scrum 10 metres out Instonians attacked again and again on the opposition line. Davey Scott was unfortunate not to be awarded his second try when the referee ruled “held up” as he tried to dot the ball down on the line. However, respite for Cooke was short as Instonians attacked yet again from the 5 metre scrum. More phases on the Cooke line were repulsed until Instonians moved the ball to their backs to create space for fullback Andrew Keane to dive in at the corner. The conversion proved too difficult for him but Instonians were now 12-7 ahead.

They were pretty much in command at this stage and playing with their “tails up”. The set piece was going well with a really good supply of ball from the line out. As they attacked again a deliberate knock on by Cooke earned them a yellow card. From the line out Instonians built through the phases. The chance of a shot at goal was turned down in front of the posts as they tapped quickly to pound the Cooke line once more. Soon centre Matt Kilpatrick was running in for an unconverted try in the corner. This put Instonians 17-7 up and “looking good”. But Cooke were still “hanging in there”. They contested each breakdown fiercely, sometimes to good effect. At these times they “turned the ball over” and generally put Instonians under pressure causing them to make handling errors or rush things. As a result there was no further score before half time.

Cooke started the second period well and forced Instonians to infringe at the breakdown. They took a successful kick at goal from 42 metres out to peg back the score to 17-10 with less than 45 minutes gone. Back came Instonians. They had three successive penalties in their favour because of Cooke discipline failures but small errors in handling and accuracy failed to bring further scores. Instead it was Cooke who struck again. This followed another turnover at the breakdown. They held the ball through the phases before moving it wide and running in another excellent try as the Instonian defence waivered yet again. A good conversion brought the scores level at 17-17 as we moved into the final quarter.

This score sparked Instonians into action and they were soon back on the scoreboard. Another maul following a line out from a penalty and Instonians had Cooke marching back. As the phases mounted Cooke got drawn in sufficiently to allow centre Matt Kilpatrick to dance his way through the remaining cover for his second try. This went unconverted to bring the score to 22-17. Another big maul forced yet another penalty. Cooke infringed again at the line out 6 metres out. Instonians kept up the pressure from the line out close in and were rewarded when flanked Paddy Bell burst clear and made it to the line with several tacklers holding on to him. Again, the conversion went astray but at 27-17 with 10 minutes to go Instonians looked to be in the clear.

Cooke did not see it that way and fought back. First, they had a penalty for a careless mistimed tackle. A second penalty for a high tackle just a minute later earned Wayne Kelly a yellow card and now Instonians were in difficulty. Cooke pressed home their advantage. They attacked from a line out just 5 metres out. They held the ball well through phase after phase and gave Instonians some of their own medicine. Another penalty just under the posts was taken quickly. Slack tackling at close quarters allowed Cooke to force their way over for a converted try at the posts to bring the score to 27-24 with about 4 minutes left.

Instonians did not panic and although still down to 14 men they were able to exert pressure down in the Cooke 22 and hold on to the ball to see out the game. A final penalty in their favour at the scrum saw Paul Marshall tap the ball and then kick into touch to end play. It had been a close hard-fought game but, in the end, Instonians were deserved winners against a very determined and competitive Cooke side. They had out-scored their opponents 5 tries to 3 but will have to do something about their lapses in concentration which led to their normally strong defence wavering. Next week Instonians head away to Coleraine in another must win game before a crunch home game with Dromore in two week’s time.

Team 1 to 17: Conor Gallagher, Cameron Barr, John Andress, Alan Whitten, Sean Shuttleworth, Tom Matthews, Paddy Bell, Massimo Kiri Kiri, James Martin, Paul Marshall, Richard McCarthy, Robert McGibbon, David Scott, Matt Kilpatrick, Ross O’Donnell, Andrew Keane, Jonathan Mooney, Wayne Kelly.





Future Fixtures


1st XV

2nd XV

3rd XV

5th Jan

L - Coleraine (A)

L - Coleraine 2 (A)


11th Jan (Fri)

L - Dromore (19.30) (H)


12th Jan


L - Malone 3 (H)

L - Larne 2 (H)

18th Jan (Fri)


L - Carrickfergus 2 (19.30) (A)


19th Jan

L - Enniskillen (H)


L - Ards 2 (H)

26th Jan



Forster Plate QF