One step closer to title for Accies

Thursday, 16 March 2017

OMAGH Accies took one step nearer to winning their first league in 20 years with a hard fought 15-8 in over a committed Cooke outfit at Shaws' Bridge on Saturday.

Cooke XV ...8
Omagh Accies XV...15

The victory was all that mattered to the Accies though it came with a price when influential number eight James Catterson was shown a red card late on in this nervy encounter.

The Accies' position was strengthened when news of Instonians narrow win over Ballyclare, with neither side claiming a four try bonus point, filtered through meaning that a win over Carrick next week at Thomas Mellon Playing Fields would see Omagh home.

If Instonians and Omagh are tied at the top of the table, then Omagh will win the league due to a better head to head record in their games this season, both won by Omagh by a combined slender total of two points.

A win on Saturday clinches a fantastic double with James Kane's second fifteen claiming league honours earlier on in the week. Incidentially, Omagh first and second string both won their leagues following the massively successful Australian tour in 1996.

“We knew what we had to do today, and we achieved this," said Omagh coach, Phil Marshall. "This was a day not to worry about style, panache or anything else other than four points. We were disappointed last week but had worked hard to get ourselves into this position during the campaign, and I told that lads the main thing is that it is still in our hands.

"It was a turgid game of rugby and we got out of Dodge by the skin of our teeth. The performance concerned me, we will have to vastly improve against Carrick next week, make no doubt about that."

It was a game in which both side needed the win, Omagh to maintain a title push, Cooke to avoid being sucked down into ninth place and the potential of relegation, and it was a nervy first half, bereft of much memorable action that saw the sides notch a penalty each to tie the game 3-3 at the break. Omaghs' penalty in a poor performance all round came from Neil MacLaine, while the Co. Tyrone side were relieved to see the home kicker have an off day, missing a brace of kickable penalties in the first 40 minutes.

Marshall reminded his side of the hard work they had put in and what they had achieved already this season at the break, and his charges came out in positive style following the re-start.

The backs looked lively and capable of cutting through at will bit never made the final pass or incision when it mattered, though MacLaine finished off a good move to score and take the lead, thought the conversion was missed.

Mervyn Edgar was shown a yellow card for an alleged neck roll and it was with a numerical advantage up front that the home pack began to flex its muscles, pounding away at the Accies defence time and time again adopting a forward dominated, pummelling approach until they finally wore the defence down and tied the score with a try of their own. The conversion went wide to the relief of a nervous visiting support.

More drama was yet to come when Catterson, the one Omagh forward to shine on the day, was shown a red card as the game went into the last 10 minutes, with many of the travelling support in shock at the potentially season changing moment.

This could have spelt disaster and saw a seasons work ended, but to their credit, they never buckled, but broke out of defence, the backs ran some great lines, supported well and ran in a great team try in the dying seconds with the prolific Scott Barr going over to claim what could be a historic win. MacLaine added the conversion.

The referee blew the whistle at the next breakdown to fining the game which could go a long way in seeing Omagh claim the league title should they win against Carrick this Saturday.

Should Dromore fail to take anything form their match against Instonians on Tuesday night, then Carrick will be safe and will have neither relegation of a top four finish and automatic entry into the All-Ireland Junior Cup competition to play for so many in this part of Co. Tyrone will be rooting for an Instonians win.

“We still have to improve on Saturday, we can't afford another performance like that", admitted Marshall who should have a full squad to choose form in what is the biggest game in years in Omagh on Saturday. Kick off 2:30pm.

Team : Alistair Beckett, Ryan Mitchell, Scott Barr, Alan Heaney, Neil Brown, Neil MacLaine, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander , Richard Hemphill, David Thompson, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Mervyn Edgar, Adam Longwell, James Catterson

Subs : Adam Pollock, Adam Stephenson


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