Derby delight for Omagh Accies
Thursday, 16 February 2017
OMAGH Accies kept up the pressure on league leaders, Instonians with a 17-0 victory over Clogher Valley on Saturday and in doing so bagged a clean sweep of local derbies and retained "John Rainey's' Cap", the unofficial trophy for the fixture.
Omagh Accies XV ...17
Clogher Valley XV ...0
An important win for Omagh in the end, but they were made to work all the way in an attritional game in which there was little fluidity, clinical lines, or breaks, but rather a game based on work rate and commitment. The Accies had chances in both halves to add to their two try total but went begging through a mixture of tough defence and lack of clinical finishing ability.
“The win today was what was important and we achieved this. We will have days when more things come off but derby days can be tough affairs and this was certainly a physical battle," admitted Omagh Phil Marshall.
“We have another massive test next week when Instonians come to town. They have been the team to beat for a while now. We won the earlier game in Belfast by a solitary point and they will be hurting and coming to us looking for revenge".
“This win ensured we will have a top four finish and secured our place in the All-Ireland Junior Cup next season. It was the first objective of this season and we are delighted to qualify for this competition for the first time," he added.
Omagh won the territorial battle overall, though as in the earlier away fixture, had to withstand a tough opening 20 minutes in which the visitors flexed their muscles up front and put intense pressure with a series of catch and drive from lineouts, close in scrums and mauls. Ryan Wilson was unlucky on several occasions being held up just short as Omagh defended in a well organised fashion, who managed to clear their lines and get the turnover when it mattered most.
Andy Allen made his season debut for the first team and was involved in much action throughout the game, the first being to tackle a Clogher forward driving forward, the second to throw himself to block a clearance kick. He scored a penalty, had an interception, won a turnover and secured ball on the ground in an energetic performance form the youngster.
Intent on playing a more expansive game, the first time the Accies connected out the backs, they took the lead. Quick ball was taken from the lineout and moved out the backs. Andy Allen brought it back in before moving open again with Alistair Beckett, making a welcome return from injury, made the break and put Scott Barr in the clear. Barr had plenty to do but pinned the ears back and went over having the wherewithal to move under the posts for a well-crafted score. Lee Murphy added the conversion for 7-0.
Scrum half Stewart McCain was denied after a snipe down the blind side following a big run by James Catterson, who showed up well from number eight dealing with a lot of ball from a pack on the back foot. Omagh were awarded a penalty which they took quickly and recycled but were stopped when Allen has halted with a massive hit deep in the 22.
Murphy almost conjured a try from nothing minutes later when he fielded a oose pass, jigged one way and then another and kept driving forward while on his knees. The ball was recycled and the charging Jamie Sproule was stopped in his tracks with the overlap out wide.
A charge from a well worked lineout involving Adam Longwell saw Mervyn Edgar charge deep into the Clogher 22 but again was caught by the cover defence and Omagh could not manage to take any points from this incursion. Half time 7-0
Stern words from coach, Phil Marshall saw his side dominate the opening 20 minutes of the second period, playing uphill but surprisingly with the wind at their backs. They attempted to keep the ball alive and not get into an arm wrestle up front, but were frantic and shovelled a lot of slow possession resulting in scrappy, disjointed play.
Murphy looked assured in the No 10 berth, mixing his game up well with using the breeze to pin Clogher deep and was unlucky to see a penalty attempt hit the post. Allen was first to react and gather possession but was turned over and the opportunity lost.
A neat move involving Catterson, McCain and Neil Brown saw the rangy winger cut deep into the Clogher 22 but after much effort close to the line they couldn't capitalise and the ball was cleared. Minutes later Murphy spurned a kickable opportunity as the penalty count against the Cran side mounted considerably.
Having been penned back in their own 22 for the first 20 minutes of the second period, Clogher began to get some possession and looked to build through their pack and use their strength to work the blindside, though the Omagh defence was solid.
Murphy made it third time lucky as Omagh maintained their push and hunger for the points and were awarded a penalty inside the Clogher 22, to extend the lead to 10-0.
Murphy unleashed a long penalty to touch which Clogher tapped back over their dead ball line to give Omagh a scrum five metres out as the clock began to show five minutes left. Catterson took the ball open and rumbled close in, while Jamie Sproule added a few extra hard yards as the Accies stretched the visitors defence. Omagh moved it both ways before McCain fed Murphy close in and he ducked under a couple of would be tacklers to scamper over for a deserved score to seal the points for Omagh. Allen added the conversion to close the game and keep the Accies good run going.
One disappointment for the home side was the loss of Neil Brown near the end. He and his opposite number were involved in a massive collision which left both players needing treatment and finished their respective games.
The visitors did have their chances in the second period but couldn't sustain good field position long enough to capitalise from.
This was a game of attrition and typical derby encounter in which the win was the most important thing. Omagh now welcome league leaders in a titanic clash next Saturday in a very important fixture, though with both sides to play third placed Ballyclare later in the season, this season will run to the wire.
Marshall will have Neil MacLaine returning and may utilise him in his natural centre position with Murphy continuing at out half. Seletion will e interesting with the lads coming into the side all performing well and putting their hands up for a first team shirt.
Clogher once again embroiled in a battle to avoid ninth position, and next week Ballyclare are the visitors to the 'Cran' in a game that now has a big significance.
Team: Alistair Beckett, Neil Brown, Scott Barr, Andy Allen, Ryan Mitchell, Lee Murphy, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander (c), Richard Hemphill, David Thompson, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Mervyn Edgar, Adam Longwell, James Catterson
Subs : Mark Brown, Stephen MacLaine
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