Clogher Valley progressed to the Junior Cup Final at Kingspan on May 14 with a hard-fought 14-7 win over a tough Cooke side at Shaws Bridge on Saturday.

The home side fought bravely until the final whistle, but tries from Aaron Dunwoody and David Stinson and two conversions from Paul Armstrong was enough to see the Valley through to another cup final at the Home of Ulster rugby.

The pitch at Shaws Bridge was showing the wear and tear from a long season of rugby, with more sand than grass, and despite the overnight rain the ground was still firm, but the rain drizzled throughout the game and didn’t suit fast-flowing rugby.

The first scrum was Cooke’s statement for the rest of the game as the Valley pack went backwards at a speed unseen all season.

But despite their dominance in the scrum, Cooke never really capitalised on it and while they controlled the game for large parts of the first half, they never seemed to be able to break that Clogher defence.

It was Aaron Dunwoody who opened the scoring, with a run from just inside the Cooke 22-metre area.

He was pulled to the ground but not held and the flanker was back on his feet in a flash and sprinted in to score the first try. Paul Armstrong converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

As the clock went past 30 minutes, Cooke pilled on the pressure; with ruck after ruck they drove hard at the Valley defence, who eventually ran out of defenders, and the home side drew level with a try and conversion.

Cooke started the second half in the same manner, piling on the pressure against Clogher.

For long spells they had the Valley pinned in their own half, if not their own 22.

Despite the Cooke phases reaching 20 at times, they were never able to deliver that killer blow against Clogher, who tackled their hearts out.

David Stinson could be singled out for his defensive work, and it was Stinson who was to cross the line to secure Valley’s pathway into the final.

Armstrong kicked a penalty into the corner, the lineout was secured and the Valley set up a rolling maul.

Once the maul stopped moving, the referee called for the Valley to use the ball; after several phases Stinson dived over to score the winning try. Armstrong converted a difficult kick from close to the touchline.

In previous encounters between these two teams, from the 60-minute point onwards, the Valley would have been stretching ahead as Cooke’s fitness levels dropped; however, this was not the case.

Cooke kept pressing for the final 15 minutes testing the Valley defence, but to no avail. The final whistle was blown with the Valley winning 14-7.

“A great performance from the team, despite the five-week gap in matches,” said Coach Stephen Bothwell.

This was a very young Valley side with several of what is normally the starting first team attending a wedding.

“The young lads have really stepped up today, and have given us a selection headache,” added the coach.

David Stinson was given Player of the Match award for his textbook tackling and surging runs.

Next stop is Kingspan against Armagh RFC in the final on May 14.