Accies return to senior ranks after victory in battle of the Boyne

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Accies return to senior ranks after victory in battle of the Boyne thumbnailAccies are back in the All-Ireland senior rugby ranks for the first time in 17 years.

OMAGH Accies penned another chapter in their rich pageant on Saturday when they defeated Boyne 29-9 to claim their place in the All-Ireland League after a 17-year hiatus.

Boyne ...9
Omagh ...29

A tremendous effort by all 20 players on show saw them run out comfortable winners in the end and end a history-making season in some style.

The Accies faithful travelled en mass to Shamrock Park at Drogheda to witness a total team performance which comprised of committed defence, organisation and skill on a famous day for the Tyrone outfit.

Boyne played with the wind in the first half with their influential fly-half, Niall Kerby, pulling the strings though a series of excellent cover tackles by the back three of Neil Brown, Scott Elliott and Stephen MacLaine denied the Co. Louth side who were keen to run and capitalise on a hopeful punts downfield from the visitors.

Omagh tried to move the ball wide and use the wide space but didn't click initially with a few passes not going to hand and both side shunting the ball keenly both on the floor and at the breakdown.

The first score was always going to be key and after 20 minutes testing each other out, Omagh produced the first piece of continuity rugby with Scott Barr, Adam Longwell and McCain combining to release Brown and the pacy winger made no mistake, rounding his opposite number and touching down under the posts allowing Lee Murphy to knock over the relatively simple conversion to take a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The home side lost their outside centre to the sin-bin for killing the ball minutes later, though Murphy missed the opportunity to tag another three points when he pulled a penalty attempt wide.

Boyne heavily scouted the Omagh v Clonmel match last weekend with coach, Graeme Eastwood, and a camera crew in attendance at Conneywarren, but he would not have expected the Accies improved scrum, though the lineouts for both were keenly contested denying much clean ball for the backs.

Elliott has impressed throughout the play-off series and looked assured in defence, under the high ball and making his tackles and counter-attacking with conviction. One such break almost led to a score only for the referee to ping the Accies for a forward pass.

An infringement at the breakdown led to a penalty opportunity for the home side on 33 minutes which their outhalf, Niall Kerby slotted over with aplomb to register his sides first points, and the same player held his nerve after the ball fell off the tee to slot over a penalty from wide out minutes later to close the gap to a solitary point.

Omagh looked to respond immediately bringing blindside winger round into a free flowing back move which saw a high tackle on number eight James Catterson, though the penalty opportunity by Murphy went wide as the ref blew for the end of a hard fought half of rugby with everything to play for, score Omagh 7 Boyne 6.

With both coaches having their final opportunity to deliver a clinical halftime talk this season, the break and the minutes immediately after the restart were going to be critical, and it was with some trepidation that Boyne surged forward, launched wave after wave of attack with only an Elliott tap tackle denying them a try. The Leinster side did get a penalty form a lineout catch and peel inside the first three minutes of the restart. Kerby retired hurt at half time with Kevin McCleary taking over the kicking duties and he made no mistake by sending his kick over and taking the lead for the home side for the first time.

Elliott replied in kind soon after with a fine strike form 35 metres to retake the lead, while Richard Hemphill , following in the footsteps of father Raymond who played for the Accies 20 years ago in the AIL and in the team that secured promotion, would have been delighted with a strike against the head on 48 minutes.

Boyne lost another player to the sin-bin on 51 minutes following two successive high tackles and Omagh made the pay dearly. Though the penalty was kicked to touch and the lineout secured and driven forward, it was from a broken play that the Accies got a crucial score. Sloppy ball was passed out wide with Jamie Sproule using every inch to dive to collect a ropy pass, before collecting a feeding Elliott. Nothing seemed to be on for the junky fullback, so he put his head down, took a great straight ahead line, and beat a series of tackles to dive over for a fine individual score which he goaled himself to take a 17-9 lead. This was Sproule's last action as succumbed to injury to be replaced by Richard Smyth.

The Tyrone side failed to secure the resulting kick-off and were relieved to see a resulting Boyne penalty sail narrowly wide, while Adam Pollock was sent to the bin minutes later as the home side began to slowly up the tempo and exert some pressure on the Accies rear-guard.

Their defence has been well organised and committed all season and held firm clearing up field and from a tremendous 40-metre burst through from a ruck, Smyth was very unlucky no to score with the referee adjudging a double movement had occurred, while Elliott was also unfortunate following good approach work by Alan Heaney as the Accies backs began to cut holes in the Boyne defence.

Adam Longwell work rate has impressed all year and he launched another attack from a miscue in the home lineout as the Leinster men began to chase the game with 15 minutes to go.

James Catterson has been the architect of plenty of Accies scores this year and he started the move that led to another try, albeit with the rub of the green that is sometimes needed at this level. He peeled blind from a scrum and feed McCain. The move seemed to have halted before he put in a chip through that seemed too long and in no danger. Ryan Mitchell chased up diligently and when the ball took a fortuitous bounce, his speed and dive allowed him to exert downward pressure with the referee in the perfect place to award the try which Elliott duly converted to give Omagh an unassailable lead.

Boyne were a beaten side at this stage, with Elliott on hand to register his second score of the game in the dying minutes following a good team move with the ball going through several pairs of hands. He missed the conversion, though an infringement on the home side saw their centre depart for a second yellow card offence.

This sealed the game which Omagh saw out comfortably and the referee blew to end a memorable season for the Coneywarren and herald pastures new as they enter the AIL ranks for the first time on 20 years.

Team : Scott Elliott, Neil Brown, Scott Barr, Neil MacLaine, Stephen MacLaine, Lee Murphy, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander (c), Richard Hemphill, David Thompson, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Mervyn Edgar, Adam Longwell, James Catterson

Subs : Ryan Mitchell, Alan Heaney, Adam Pollock, Richard Smyth, Matthew Clyde


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