Down High’s record of losing tight Schools Cup matches continued on Saturday when a flat performance against Coleraine Inst saw the visitors leave with the narrowest of victories. Down High had chances to score and dominated territory and possession but they were unable to unlock a resolute Coleraine defence and when two long range penalties rebounded off the crossbar it was clearly not going to be their day.
The opening period was typical committed Schools Cup rugby with big carries and tackles from both sides but with 15 minutes gone Coleraine were awarded a penalty after a late tackle on the left winger. The kick was converted to give the visitors a crucial 3 – 0 lead. Down High hit back and had a chance to equalize with a penalty on the left hand side 30 meters out but Justin Rea narrowly missed from a difficult angle and with 5 minutes of the first half remaining they received another setback when Kelvin Hamilton was forced to retire with an ankle injury being replaced by David Johnston. Down High continued to press until the interval but uncharacteristic errors and failure to retain the ball at the breakdown meant that Coleraine were comfortable in defence and took a 3 – 0 lead into the half time break.
The second half saw Down High dominate both possession and territory but they were unable to breach the visitors defence. Good breaks by Jack Calvert and Luc Bonnargent and big carries by Rob Long came to nothing as the final pass went to ground or possession was turned over at the ruck. With 48 minutes gone Down High were awarded a penalty 35 meters out, regular kicker Justin Rea was injured in the build up and it was Luca Rea who took the kick and was unlucky to see the ball rebound of off the crossbar. The home team continued to press but a combination of poor decisions and unforced errors meant that Coleraine were always able to clear their lines. Then with 3 minutes left on the clock Down High were awarded a penalty 45 meters out to the right of the posts and this time it was Justin Rea’s kick that rebounded off the crossbar. Coleraine regained possession and wound the clock down to close out the narrowest of victories.
Down High now move into the Schools Bowl and will be hoping for a better performance from a team that has shown great potential all season but underperformed on Saturday when it mattered most.