Clogher Valley 1st XV 17 Lurgan 1st XV 6

Clogher Valley got the season off to a solid start with a three try win over Lurgan in Championship Division Two at the Cran on Saturday.

Clogher were determined to make a strong opening to their campaign following relegation last season and first half tries from Rodney Bennett and David Sharkey helped them into a 12-3 half time lead.

And with Sharkey grabbing his second and Valley's third try in the second half they were to get their season up and running with a 17-6 victory.

With head coach Stephen Bothwell absent, the coaching responsibilities for this match rested on Paul Armstrong on the sideline and David Sharkey on the pitch.

Lurgan, who were newly promoted from Division Three, were keen to make an impact so Clogher had to be on their game from the outset.

The first 15 minutes was played virtually within the two 22 metre lines of the pitch, with neither side getting the upper hand.

A scrum inside the Valley half led to a Lurgan penalty, which was duly slotted over by the Lurgan out-half to give the visitors a 3-0 lead. This spurred the Valley into action, from a lineout a series of crisp passing amongst the backs pulled the Lurgan defence from one side of the pitch to the other, from 20 metres out, Rodney Bennett bounced two defenders onto their backs and drove over to score in the corner. The try was not converted.

Five minutes before the interval, David Sharkey rose high to claim the lineout 20 metres out, he quickly transferred the ball to Michael Treanor and Eugene McKenna who changed the point of attack. The two second row players drove to within three metres of the line before being hauled down by a desperate Lurgan defence.

Valley were not to be denied though as David Sharkey dived over to score Valley’s second try in the corner. Reece Smyton converted with a difficult kick five metres from the touchline. The half time whistle saw the Valley with a comfortable 12-3 lead over their County Armagh opponents.

With the home side looking into the sun for the second half, the visitors came hard at the Valley. Pulling the Valley from one side of the pitch to the other, they slowly worked their way up the pitch.

The Valley were deemed to have infringed at the ruck and the referee awarded a penalty to Lurgan 10 metres into the Valley half. The out-half stepped up to double the visitors score with an impressive kick; 12-6 to the home side.

The weeks of practice of lineouts on the training pitch was to pay off midway through the second half for Valley.

Sharkey caught the ball in a Valley lineout 25 metres out from the Lurgan try line. A strong rolling maul from the home side took them to within five metres, the ball was recycled several times amongst the forwards to give Sharkey the opportunity to dive over for Clogher's third try. The try was not converted.

The 17-6 score line was to remain for the rest of the match, with that elusive fourth bonus point try just not coming for the Valley. This was a solid start to the Valley’s season in this very competitive league. A strong Valley defence never gave the visitors much of a scoring opportunity, other than their long range penalties. Whilst the tries of this match may have come from the forwards, the sharpness of the backs was impressive. Their ability to get the ball through the hands with speed from one side of the pitch to the other, put this Lurgan side under pressure and created gaps.

Still plenty to work on, but a winning start to the season is always welcome.

Next week, the 1st XV travel to Limavady, while the 2nds XV get their season started with a home match against Omagh 3rds.