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Final woe for Armagh as Queen's and Rainey prevail

 

Final flourish: Willie Faloon’s side played well at times
Final flourish: Willie Faloon’s side played well at times

By Michael Sadlier

While the scoreline was hardly misleading, City of Armagh still gave a reasonably good account of themselves in their first visit to the All-Ireland Batemean Cup final.

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They ended up losing 45-21 to Garryowen, conceding six tries, but coach Willie Faloon's side played some notably good attacking rugby, just lacking the accuracy and power to launch a sustained challenge.

Elsewhere, though, there was plenty of edge-of-the seat drama at the AIL play-offs where both Queen's University and Rainey Old Boys got through their respective games and stand one win away from promotion.

At St Mary's College in Dublin, Armagh were always facing a challenge against a Garryowen side who finished mid-table in the AIL's Division 1A, a section above the Palace Grounds side.

Though Armagh started brightly, and finished with a flourish, even though they shipped two yellow cards near the end, they were severely punished for errors at key moments and were out of the game by half-time when Garryowen led 24-7.

Still, it was a more than useful reminder for Armagh - who finished eighth in 1B after winning back-to-back promotions - what is required to operate at the highest level in the club game.

For all their invention and ambition to keep the ball moving, by playing a high tempo game, too many of the basics lacked the accuracy needed to consistently trouble the Limerick side.

"It was always going to be a tough one and we knew that from the start," admitted Faloon.

"But we can't fault the effort from the lads who went right to the very end.

"We came here to play and move it around and hopefully we did negate their power by putting into the wider channels and scoring some tries out on the wings.

"We'll keep trying to push on," was the coach's message to a squad who have made significant progress in recent seasons.

The Ulster Senior Cup holders managed a first half intercept try from skipper Chris Colvin, which was converted by Harry Boyd, but were behind by 38-7 before they troubled the scoreboard again.

And with Neil Faloon and Peter Starrett in the bin, leaving just 13 Armagh players on the field, Andrew Willis scored a great try which Cormac Fox converted.

Armagh also finished off the day's scoring with a head-turning try via Shea O'Brien, Fox again kicking the points, which seemed a fitting way to end their season.

In their Division 2A promotion play-off, Queen's held on in Athlone to beat Buccaneers 30-24 - relegating them to next season's 2A - and book a final at Navan with this Saturday's winners earning themselves a spot in 1B.

Johnny Hunter's last minute turnover ensured the students the result - their eighth straight victory - after Rory Bell along with Mark and Matthew Keane had scored earlier tries.

Ritchie McMaster was also in fine form kicking all three conversions and also landing three penalties for a personal haul of 15 points.

Meanwhile, a last gasp penalty from Scott McLean at Greystones, to win 23-20, gave Rainey their play-off final at Blackrock College to earn promotion to 2A.

This was some feat for the Magherafelt side who had 13 men on the park in the game's closing drama which had looked set for extra time with the sides locked together at 20-20.

It had been a tight affair throughout, Rainey's early 10-0 lead, via Andrew Donaghy's try and Andy Magrath's conversion and penalty, being wiped out with the sides tied at the break.

Greystones had then gone ahead only for Oisin Quinn to score with a Magrath conversion and penalty giving them a 20-15 lead.

But back came Greystones to level things again before that late, late penalty which McLean held his nerve to slot over.

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