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CI back in the running as Woods seeks top four place

CIYMS 16 - Cooke 8

By Jonathan Bradley

CIYMS edged a nervous Belfast derby with Cooke on Saturday afternoon as they moved away from the lower reaches of the Kukri Qualifying One table.

The two sides came into the game separated by just one point and above only Donaghadee and Ballymoney in the table.

The defeat for Cooke, as well as a losing bonus for the Dee against Clogher Valley and Ballymoney's shock win over Portadown, leaves the south Belfast side just four points ahead of the bottom two with the possibility that a pair of teams could be relegated at the end of the season.

C.I, meanwhile, now know that a win next week against Ballyclare and victory in their game in hand against Dromore would bring them right back into the mix for a top four place.

Speaking after the triumph, the home side's captain, Gavin Woods, admitted that it had been a hugely important win.

"We're still looking up the table rather than down, but this was a bit of a crossroad game," said the prop.

"We've been in a bit of a rut and if we hadn't won then maybe we would have had to take a serious look below us.

"With half the season to go we still think we can get in the top four."

While a lack of confidence after recent results was perhaps evident, Woods stated that the nature of the performance was less important than the ultimate result.

He added: "It was ugly but we needed the win. Our league form has been a bit poor in terms of results.

"I thought we defended well, especially at the start of the second half. The most important thing was the win."

C.I started the game on the front foot and earned three kickable penalties inside the first 10 minutes but the usually reliable Sam Baker could only connect with one of the attempts.

Those misses loomed temporarily large on the quarter-hour mark when Cooke's winger Andy Pollack picked the ball up just inside his own half and set off on a blistering break through the middle of C.I's defence that ended with him crossing in the left corner.

It was, however, to be Cooke's last lead of the day and as the second quarter began, C.I responded with a try of their own. Michael Wilson took a quick penalty before chipping the ball over the top and Cooke were forced into conceding the put in to the scrum.

The home pack were driving forward ominously when they were illegally halted and, despite it being the first such offence, the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try.

Five minutes before half time, C.I extended their lead when Cooke were pinged for a high tackle and Baker knocked over the subsequent penalty to leave the score 11-5 at the interval.

After the turn, Cooke started brightly and a series of penalties saw them gain good ground but industrious work from Matt Armstrong on the ground gave the home side a chance to clear the ball.

A further chance was spurned when David Elliott sent an attempt off the tee wide but, when Paddy Aiken was caught offside, the fly-half did register three points from the resulting penalty.

The visitors would not score again, with C.I defending well throughout periods of pressure and Cooke spurning a number of opportunities.

That failure to translate their possession into points would prove significant as, with the final whistle nearing, C.I scored a final try to seal the game.

With just five minutes left, Jason Gilliland pounced on a loose ball and kicked ahead, seemingly leaving a straight footrace between himself and Elliott for the line. The bounce evaded both players, however, but Neil Wallace was on hand to advance the ball.

The wing drew the final defender before offloading to Aiken and the lock scored his second try in as many games.

The visitors will feel they merited at least a losing bonus point but now face a huge game with bottom side Donaghadee at Shaw's Bridge this weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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