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Cooke hold off Donaghadee's fightback

Junior rugby with Jonathan Bradley

Cooke just managed to hold off a spirited Donaghadee fightback to earn a valuable win at the foot of Kukri Qualifying One on Saturday afternoon.

The south Belfast side led by a score of 29-7 at half-time, and had already secured a try bonus point by the interval, but failed to register a single score after the turn and allowed the visitors back into the game with a pair of yellow cards.

While they ultimately held on for the victory, Dee were rewarded for their efforts with two points after a controversial late penalty try brought them within range for a losing bonus while also representing their fourth score of the day.

Despite the late concession, Cooke still leapfrogged their conquered opponents in the league table and Donaghadee are now above only bottom-placed UUC.

Cooke's player-coach Colin Atkinson, who scored his side's third try, said after the game: "Everything we talked about during the week was about making a strong start and we were happy that we managed that with a few early tries and some good defence.

"We've really tried to improve our discipline recently though, so it was disappointing to get a yellow card so soon into the second half.

"Donaghadee punished us massively in that ten minutes and credit to them for hanging in there to get the bonus.

"It was an important game with both sides down at the bottom so we're just glad to get the win in the end."

Just two minutes had elapsed when Micah McDowell opened the scoring, the centre trailing Ashley Finlay's break before being released to cross the line. Alan Gourley knocked over the conversion to put his side into a 7-0 lead.

Gourley set up McDowell for another try shortly afterwards and Cooke seemed well on their way to victory.

With a quarter of the game gone, Donaghadee got on the scoreboard however when Ali Barnes wriggled over the line following a series of pick and goes and Nigel Barker was accurate with the sideline conversion.

In the 37th minute, a well executed lineout in Donaghadee territory allowed flanker Sam Boyd to break away and find Atkinson with the strong-running number 8 then powering over the line. Cooke's intensity and discipline slipped in the second half and McDowell was shown a yellow card shortly after the restart. Dee took advantage of their host's numerical disparity soon after when Paul Blewitt delivered a clever cross-kick over the isolated Mitchell and the ball was gathered by Rory Garnham to go over in the corner.

Donaghadee added a further try in the 55th minute through Mark Cooper.

A strong run from scrum half and captain Alistair Lockhart created space before flanker David Murray drew the last defender leaving Cooper free to score in the corner.

The testing conversion was off target and Dee's comeback attempt suffered further when ex-Ulster and Exeter Chiefs centre Paul McKenzie was forced from the field with a leg injury.

Dee's Paul Blewitt was the third man to spend time in the sin bin but the visitors would still land an all-important try with the last action of the game. A scrum in the left corner was pulled down by Cooke the referee had no hesitation in running underneath the posts to ensure both sides ended the game with points.

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