CIYMS throw down cup gauntlet
CIYMS began their defence of the McCrea Cup with a comfortable 24-5 win over Queen's second string at Upper Malone on Saturday.
The game got off to a slow start, with neither side able to score during the first quarter, but after Andy Hodgen broke the deadlock with a fine try in the 23rd minute, C.I controlled the proceedings and ran in a further three scores.
With their first XV playing a Senior League fixture in Dungannon, the Students had a limited squad to choose from, but C.I had a number of injuries to contest with themselves – for example, having lost captain Stuart Fergusson for the season due to an MCL injury picked up in a recent game with Bangor.
While there was an early penalty miss by the east Belfast side, scoring chances were few and far between in the opening stages, although a series of physical carries indicated that C.I would not be contained.
The pack were still to the fore when C.I did open the scoring, moving through the phases in the Queen's half before working the ball to Andy Hodgen, whose footwork was exemplary to create the break, and the centre dragged both ball and tackler over the line.
Stephen Foster's conversion attempt struck the left post, but bounced fortuitously to make the score 7-0.
Just five minutes elapsed before that lead was doubled with another converted try.
The C.I scrum was strong and as it advanced towards the line, scrum-half Neil Wallace was able to peel off the back and dot down in the corner.
The testing conversion from the sideline was expertly negotiated by Foster and C.I led 14-0.
Wallace's opposite number, John Russell, would get on the scoresheet himself soon after when the Queen's backs exchanged a series of neat offloads to put him into space.
Russell showed some pace to streak clear and ensure that the bright play yielded five points.
Ally Wright could not add the extras, however, and the score at the break was 14-5.
After the turn, the second half followed a similar pattern to the first with no points coming in the opening 20 minutes.
C.I displayed their strength in depth by replacing Chris Davidson and Matt Brown with Paddy Aiken and Tom Stevenson.
With 10 minutes remaining, C.I ended any hope of a Queen's fightback with their third score.
A penalty was advanced 10 metres by the referee after a display of dissent from the home side's ranks and Queen's were pinned back deep inside their own territory.
Steven McReynolds gathered the ball and advanced strongly before releasing Foster.
He in turn found Robin Brown charging upfield over his right shoulder and the fullback was able to score without the need of his overlapping winger.
There was still time for one final try, even after the clock had ticked past 80 minutes.
Good work from Tom Stevenson forced a turnover and number 8 Ross Hackney was able to run the ball home.
The victory will be a relief to the holders, given that their league form has faltered of late.
Last season's beaten finalists Cooke also advanced to the semi-finals after they overcame Belfast Harlequins II 19-13.
The other two teams in the final four will be Grosvenor and Instonians II, who triumphed over Malone II and Civil Service respectively.