Accies quest for promotion falls just short.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Accies quest for promotion falls just short. thumbnail Omagh Accies’ Matty Eccles is stopped in his tracks against Belfast Harlequins.

OMAGH Accies Rugby Club narrowly missed out on promotion to AIL 2B after a gripping game with Belfast Harlequins at Deramore that saw the home side score three tries in a 20 minute purple period in the second half to seal a cracking play-off game victory.

Going down to the wire, a banana kick in the last second almost saw their hard work undone but only the quick thinking of the home winger enabled him to touch down in the in goal area to close out a hard fought encounter.

The Co. Tyrone side, backed up by a tremendous travelling support, played their part in a memorable game of rugby, but saw a few basic errors at the set piece hurt them as Harlequins, on the back of a four-game winning streak themselves, took their chances when possession and a numerical advantage, presented themselves.

Phil Marshall's men can be justifiably proud of an excellent season's effort, and they pushed the Belfast side all the way.

When captain Stewart McCain finished off a move in the last few minutes, the nerves around Deramore were pushed to the limit, only to be met by a deafening sigh of relief when Munster whistler Barrie O'Connell blew for full time.

"I was confident at half time, we usually get stronger in the second period, but a few minutes of madness killed us, summed up a disappointed Accies coach, Phil Marshall. "They had more nous, were more experienced and capitalised when they had to.

"We made great strides this year, played some fantastic rugby and have blooded a heck of a lot of players into AIL rugby. That's money in the bank for the future.

"We left it just too late on Saturday, but that's sport, someone has to lose and unfortunately it was us today.

We will learn from this experience and look forward to another very interesting campaign next year."

Both sides looked to play open attractive rugby and utilise the wide open spaces of Deramore with two potent looking back divisions, but it was up front that Omagh took the early honours with the upper hand at the scrum winning turnover ball, penalties and putting the home eight under considerable pressure.

Omagh took a deserved lead with a well taken penalty from Scott Elliott after five minutes when the home side were penalised for hands in the ruck, though Harlequins replied almost immediately building on solid work from a well drilled catch and drive, to cross the whitewash with centre, Mark Gribben tagging on the extras.

Showing great confidence, Elliott mixed his game up with short kick-offs and blind side attacks while the backline looked dangerous in possession.

The Co.Tyrone team were reduced to 14 men when Peter Todd was shown the yellow card for a no arms tackle though solid defence denied the home side any advantage in this period.

Showing his versatility by starting in the centre, Stephen MacLaine as unlucky not to see a kick through from a broken down Harlequins attack in midfield bounce into his hands as he poured through.

James Catterson showed his attacking prowess with a couple of strong runs, and with the home side again transgressing at the breakdown, Elliott stepped up to stroke over another penalty to close the gap to 7-6.

Harlequins were reduced to 14 men themselves following a high tackle on Alistair Beckett, and when Matthew Clyde burst free form a scrum, Omagh were pushing hard but with the home defence scrambling, couldn't capitalise.

A series of big carried in the last minutes of the half saw Omagh awarded a scrum.

The ball was spun wide from Clyde through McCain to leave Beckett with ball in hand and with a quick jink, he sliced through the defence to register a deserved try. Elliott added the extras as the Accies took a 13-7 lead into the break.

Half time 7-13

Omagh began the half in enterprising form, running from deep and with the pack getting the upper hand in the scrum, the backline showed confidence and enterprise, but in what was a feature of the game, the Harlequins scramble defence always seemed to have the man in perfect covering position to deny the score.

With the home side beginning to build momentum, the Deramore outfit broke through with winger Richie McKee piercing the Accies defence and looked to score with only a fine cover tackle by Beckett denying a certain score. Referee O'Connell adjudged foul play and sent the Accies full-back to the bin.

Harlequins mounted a series of attacks and were rewarded when Rory Harrison went over from close in following a catch and drive from a five metre lineout. The conversion went wide.

Another fine cover tackle this time by McCain denied the home side minutes later, but Omagh pressed the self-destruct button. Losing their lineout five metres out, Harequins claimed possession, spun the ball out with a long cut out pass, Christian Bennison made the man advantage count and dived over in the corner.

Gribben added the conversion from wide out to take the lead 19-13.

From another Omagh lineout that went astray, the Belfast side gathered possession and went through their phases with James McConnell going over and Gribben converting to extend the lead to 26-13.

With Marshall using his bench to freshen things up, the Accies went on the offensive again with Elliott making a half break and moving the point of attack wide across the pitch.

Building and building, they finally made their recycling, persistent and committed running count, when Elliott created the overlap out wide slipping the ball to McCain to finish off a fine team try.

The out half stepped up to ensure a cracking final five minutes by splitting the uprights to leave Omagh within a converted try of the win.

Try as they might they couldn't retain possession with the Deramore outfit utilising their big eight to pick and go and run down the clock.

The last seconds still proved interesting when the home side tried to put the ball out of touch only for a banana kick to fall over their own line, meaning very quick thinking from the home winger to win the race to touch down and finish the game.

All in all, it was a tremendous effort from a committed Accies side which was only denied by a purple patch from a very relieved home outfit from a third promotion in four years, but one which followed a great first season back in the AIL ranks with plenty to build on for next season.

Omagh : Alistair Beckett, Matty Eccles, Stephen MacLaine, Luke Hanson, Ryan Mitchell, Scott Elliott, Stewart McCain (c), Peter Todd, Philip Ewing, Richard Smyth, Johnny Sproule, Jamie Sproule, James Catterson, Adam Longwell, Matthew Clyde.

Subs : Kyle Alexander, Richard Hemphill, Stewart Allen, Adam Beattie, Eoin Murnaghan, Yonga Taleni, Jack Mitchell


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