Despite a battling performance, Dromore were unable to end the season with a victory over Belfast side Cooke.
Andy Black crossed the whitewash twice, but this wasn’t enough to end the season on a high note as they were beaten 20-18.
Dromore made a bright start by turning the ball over after great defence early in the game. It was distributed quickly to the flanks but the Cooke defence drifted across and marshalled Dromore into touch.
Andy Black leapt highest at the line out to turn the ball over once again and after several phases, the big man bundled over in the corner. John Russell converted in testing conditions.
Cooke increased the tempo with a succession of quick penalties and made ground into the Dromore 22. Sammy Russell, Gareth Fitzpatrick and Stuart Sloan all made great hits and Aaron Stewart thought he had secured a great turnover but was penalised for hands in the ruck and sent to the sin bin.
Cooke opted to touch in a bid for their first try of the game. After sustained pressure, Cooke breached the Dromore defence and the big prop crossed. A two point lead remained as the conversion was missed.
From the restart, Dromore fell off tackles and allowed Cooke cheap territory into the home half. Dromore almost allowed Cooke to gain the lead but clung on and managed avert the danger.
Breaks from Adam McDonald and Rory Pepper asked questions of the Cooke defence but poor security of the ball at the ruck allowed Cooke to turnover and clear. A penalty on halfway from a scrum gave John Russell the chance to extend the lead and he landed with relative ease.
As half time approached, Dromore held the territory but were failing to convert their dominance into points. Cooke kept producing the turnovers and managed to get in at half time at 10-5.
The conditions began to deteriorate as the second half started and the rain poured in on Barban Hill. It took Cooke five minutes into the second half to level the game with a rolling maul crashing over to make it 10-10.
Cooke had a very useful rolling maul that caused problems for Dromore early on but the home side fronted up and took their visitors on at a gruelling contest in the lineout.
Dromore continued to fight with Ryan Hughes bludgeoning away at the Cooke defence.
Neither side gave an inch for much of the second half. Dromore continued to use their one up runners to attack, Stuart Wilson and Gareth Fitzpatrick carried well and always made good yards but it was Cooke who had the opportunity to take the lead with a penalty after Dromore were adjudged to be sealing off.
The kick was good and gave Cooke a three point lead at 13-10.
After Fitzpatrick was sent to the bin for back chat, Dromore’s forwards took control of proceedings and began to break the gain line. Working their way up to the five metre line, Andy Black was on hand to cross in the corner for his second try. Dromore had all the momentum and looked the more likely to score again. John Russell kicked a penalty to bring the score to 18-13.
Dromore however were pegged back after a penalty kick was sent to touch deep in the 22. After setting the maul, Michael Harshaw made a nuisance of himself to pinch the ball and ease pressure.
Despite resolute defence throughout much of the game, it was an unfortunate moment of miscommunication that conceded the game. A hopeful kick was launched into the Dromore but full back Adam McDonald was unable to reach the ball aand an unfortunate bounce allowed it to fall into the hands of the Cooke forward who raced in under the sticks to give the away side an easy conversion to secure the win.
Spirited by previous passages of play and ball retention in the opposition 22, Dromore responded by winning the ball from the restart, but were unable to replicate the move that led to Black’s second try.
A final score of 20-18 gave Dromore a losing bonus point and a final league position of eighth with Ards and CIYMS having no chance of catching them despite a game in hand.