Strabane 0 Monaghan 26

The IJM Monaghan 1stXV went to Strabane on Saturday and recorded a bonus point win whilst holding their hosts scoreless in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship div 3. The IJM Monaghan team, in a match sponsored by Bridge Gymnastics, had a somewhat unfamiliar look due to a number of changes and positional switches.

Gareth Graham kicked off for Monaghan and the game quickly settled into a pattern of IJM Monaghan dominating possession whilst Strabane tackled ferociously, regularly sending the Monaghan ball carriers backwards in the tackle. Gareth Graham had a chance to open the scoring in the 6th minute but his penalty shot from 45 meters went to the right of the posts. He had another penalty shot from long distance in the 13th minute but was a little short on this occasion. In the 18th minute, Gareth Graham turned down another long range penalty shot at goal settling instead for good field position deep inside the Strabane 22. Marc McArdle caught the throw to the rear of the lineout and Monaghan went to the lineout maul which Strabane succeeded in stopping a meter short of the goal line. The ball was recycled quickly and Jamie Sheridan’s pass found Jamie Sherlock near the left hand corner flag and Sherlock dived over to score. Gareth Graham found the target with an excellent conversion from the touchline. Strabane found themselves down to 14 men in the 24th minute as their right winger was yellow carded for a high tackle on Carl Foentjies. Gareth Graham found a good touch inside the 22 with the resulting penalty as Monaghan attempted to repeat their earlier try move. However, a knock on after 5 phases of play saw the move breakdown. A period of Strabane pressure inside the Monaghan 22 with 5 minutes of the half remaining tested the visitors defence but they succeeded in keeping their hosts out thanks to some great tackling by Christopher Brady and Daniel McGregor in particular. The pressure was relieved when Malcolm Allister stole the ball at a ruck and Fergal O’Dowd kicked long to touch. The half time score stood at Strabane 0 IJM Monaghan 7.

Monaghan made a couple of changes at the break. A foot injury saw Jamie Sherlock being replaced and Christopher Brady move to the front row with Aogan Smith coming on and Steven Clerkin moving into the pack. Andrew McPhillips made his Monaghan senior debut as he replaced Donatas Jonkas. Strabane got the 2nd half underway and the game settled into a familiar pattern early in the half. Monaghan wasted a good chance from a 5 meter lineout after 54 minutes but were now starting to play a more expansive game. In the 58th minute, Rory McKenna stole a Strabane lineout throw inside the Monaghan 22. A long Carl Foentjies pass found Andrew McPhillips who beat a number of tacklers as he ran into the Strabane half. He found Gareth Graham running a good line inside him when he was eventually halted and Graham had enough pace to score a try in the right hand corner. He failed to land the conversion. Strabane had a penalty shot at goal in the 62nd minute but it dropped under the crossbar. Monaghan extended their lead after 65 minutes. Having worked the ball left across the backline from a lineout, play was switched back to the right. Gareth Graham spotted that the defence had been pulled across also and his kick to the right of the 22 was well chased by Malcolm Allister who was tackled just short of the line. Marc McArdle was on hand to pick up the ball and dive over for a try which Gareth Graham added the extras. Malcolm Allister was yellow carded in the 73rd minute for an infringement at a ruck. Strabane thought they had scored a try in the 78th minute and so did referee Jarvis Traynor momentarily until he realised that he had been codded by pitch markings which erroneously had the 5 meter line marked similarly to the goal line. After a couple of scrums Monaghan lifted the siege and Carl Foentjies slipped through a couple of tackles before setting Andrew McPhillips away the length of the field to score under the posts. Gareth Graham converted to leave the full time score, Strabane 0 IJM Monaghan 26.

This was a good effort from the Monaghan lads away from home which sees them collect their 3rd 5 point haul on the spin. Malcolm Allister was superb in the loose upfront and Marc McArdle lorded the back of the lineout winning an amount of good possession from accurate throws from Malcolm Allister. Andrew McPhillips made a big impact on his introduction to the ¾ line. Monaghan are back at home next weekend when they take on high flying Newry on Saturday afternoon (2.30pm KO)
Team: J Sherlock M Allister B O’Reilly R McKenna C Wilson C Brady D McGregor M McArdle J Sheridan C Foentjies D Jonkas G Graham E Rutledge (c) S Clerkin F O’Dowd. Subs: A Smith A McPh