Clogher Valley 45 Cooke 17

Clogher Valley continued their winning start to the season with a strong home performance over Cooke at the Cran, coming out 45-17 winners.

The first 15 minutes was spent trading blows in the centre of the pitch, although it was clear the Valley wanted to play an expansive game.

After several phases of play and Cooke gaining no territory, they opted for a kick over the top, pushing Clogher deep into their own half.

The Valley secured the lineout and then a break from Calum Smyton down the blindside, splitting the Cooke defence.

Smyton kept going and going, past one defender, then another, then past the full back to score the opening try. Paul Armstrong converted from near the touchline.

For the next 20 minutes the visitors piled on the pressure, keeping Clogher mainly in their own half.

The visitors’ efforts were eventually rewarded with a try under the posts, drawing level with the home side.

This spurred the Valley into a response.

From the restart, they gathered the ball; several phases later, they got into the Cooke 22, a neat chip over the top was gathered by David Sharkey who drove over to score in the corner. Armstrong added the two points from the touchline.

A Cooke penalty just before the interval left the half time score 14-10 to the home side.

Coach Stephen Bothwell’s words at half time had an immediate effect on the Valley side as within three minutes they had crossed the line for try number three.

Calum Smyton offloaded to Stuart Brown to give the winger the time needed to cross the line.


Try number four, and Calum Smyton’s third, came moments later. A Cooke defensive lineout went wrong, Smyton was first to react and drove over the line with three Cooke players hanging on his shirt tail. Armstrong added the two points and the Valley led 26-10.

Not to be outdone by his younger brother, Reece Smyton added try number five.

A scrum five metres from the Cooke try line was won by the Valley, and several phases of play followed, pulling the Cooke defensive line out of shape, which was all Reece Smyton needed to sidestep, then pirouette through the smallest of gaps to score.

Armstrong added the additional points.

Minutes later, and another break from the Valley half, Michael Trainor made 35 metres, then popped the ball to Robbie Mills, who in turn popped to Paul Armstrong who dove through two Cooke defenders to score. The Valley now led 38-10.

Cooke never gave up and pounced on a Valley mistake to claw back a try.

This gave the visitors some heart and they started to put together some phases, testing the Valley defence. Inches from the Valley line, Cooke knocked on.

The winning of the scrum on the five metres was crucial to the Valley. Valley hooker Kyle Cobane struck the ball cleanly, Calum Smyton picked the ball up and drove away from his own line, interlinking with the backs, and within 25 seconds the Valley were sprinting 90 metres towards the Cooke line.

A try-saving tackle from the Cooke winger stopped Regan Wilkinson five metres out.

As the game came to a close, David Sharkey stole a Cooke lineout throw, popped the ball down to David Stinson, who like a raging bull drove over the Cooke scrum half, then went over the top of the winger in a manner similar to the great New Zealander Jona Lomu to score Clogher’s seventh try, converted by skipper Paul Armstrong, who had a master class with the boot.

This is the third league win for Clogher Valley which pushes them towards the top of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division One table.

This is a young side, but the exciting brand of rugby pushed by coach Stephen Bothwell suits their skills and talent.

This is a team who can score tries from anywhere on the pitch. They will pull the opposition from one side of the pitch to the other, until that gap appears, then they are clinical with their finishing.

Next up on Saturday is another home game against Dromore, who always provide a stern opposition.