McCain hat-trick helps Accies to derby win

Thursday, 5 January 2017

McCain hat-trick helps Accies to derby win thumbnailOmagh Accies' Adam Stephenson powers past his Enniskillen opponent. PA0102MD

Omagh ...29 Enniskillen ...7 A HAT-trick of tries by scrum half, Stewart McCain, in the last 20 minutes was enough for Omagh Accies to extinguish the threat of an Enniskillen outfit which had impressed on their return to the top flight of Junior Rugby with definite title credentials of their own.
This eagerly awaited Yuletide fixture had extra vigour given the league positions of both teams, both with aspirations of lifting silverware come the end of March, and was the appropriate match to open the Pat Kirk sponsored pitch at Thomas Mellon Playing Fields.
First blood to Omagh in these back to back festive season derby matches but next week's return fixture at Mullaghmeen will be a massive challenge.
Omagh made several changes to their team with injuries and unavailability ruling several players out and fielding an unfamiliar front row with Richard Hemphill coming in at tight heat to join the versatile Mervyn Edgar at hooker and captain, Kyle Alexander. This combination had a tough day at the office but never stopped putting in a tremendous shift in the loose.
“We had lost two on the bounce with the defeat away at Dromore very disappointing, but the lads stepped up today. We looked sharp out the backs, solid in the lineout, and while we were second best in the scrum, the lads never gave up and the work rate of the side was excellent", noted Accies coach, Phil Marshall after the game.
“The really big test is next week. We have to replicate this effort at Enniskillen and it won't be easy. They have a strong pack, some dangerous strike runners out wide and will be very tough on their own patch".
“I hope to have some of the guys out today available for next week but will see how they react in training this week", he added.
The Fermanagh men kicked off playing with the wind and soon had the ascendency in the scrum, though Omagh responded with Jamie Sproule and James Catterson impressing with their ball carrying, while David Thompson and Adam Longwell on the flank impressed with their work rate and determination at the breakdown.
Weathering early pressure by the visitors, Omagh settled down and played their way into the Enniskillen half and took the lead from a fine try by Neil Brown. Neil MacLaine, growing into the out half berth, took a great line and stood up the defence before bringing Scott Barr on the blindside wing in to play. He found Brown who exchanged passes with Ryan Mitchell before diving over for a great score of first phase ball. The conversion was missed.
Omagh had he heads up now with Catterson making big yards though it took a fine cover tackle by Brown to halt a dangerous Enniskillen break with their fullback looking very dangerous with ball in hand.
The Accies support work was impressive with only a combination of last gasp defence, handling errors from forcing passes and offloading and over exuberance in attempting to get the next crucial score.
Another flowing move out the backs saw a clearly targeted MacLaine bounce off a tackler coming quick off the line and release Mitchell to go close but he was bundled into touch inches short.
The Mullaghmeen outfit showed a willingness to release a potent back three, and cut Omagh open with a well-rehearsed back row move that opened space but was halted from sterling defensive work by Alan Heaney and Mitchell in what was now a free flowing contest aided by a referee willing to play advantage and encourage running rugby.
An intelligent blindside break by the veteran Edgar from the back of a maul caught the visiting defence cold. Swapping passes with the alert Scott Barr he was halted inches short. The back row was there quickly and after a few pop passes close in, Heaney used his strength to muscle over for a deserved score just on the stroke of half time. The conversion was missed. This was the perfect end to a half in which they were more inventive and clinical, playing in to the wind, but under pressure in the scrum.
Half time 10-0.
The Fermanagh side bossed the firsts 20 minutes of the second period, playing the game in the Omagh 22 in what was a scrappy quarter of rugby, devoid of continuity, but still competitively contested at the breakdown and full of honest endeavour, if not guile and incisive attacking.
The Mullaghmeen men played the lines and used their maul and resulting series of scrums to build pressure, and after some dogged last gasp defence by Omagh they were awarded a penalty try from a wheeling scrum. The conversion was added to close the game to 10-7 on the hour mark and the points were up for grabs when McCain took over.
Unexpectedly rehydrated from the side-line by a rotund Enniskillen assistant coach, McCain gave his side the perfect response when he ran a great line to support a bullocking run by Heaney, and he had the gas to finish off the move from inside the 22. Lee Murphy added the conversion to extend the lead to 10 points again after 65 minutes.
With their tails up, Omagh tore into the game again and had a 5 metre scrum in the next play following the restart. Brown fielded the kick and took off on a mazy run before spinning out wide with Mitchell chipping through with the kick chase swallowing the Skins defender forcing him to carry over. Despite a retreating scrum, Catterson cleaned up well, as he had done all afternoon and set the ball up.
The Accies released their big ball carriers with Catterson and the Sproules in full flow to soften up the defence before McCain darted over for the critical fourth try with Murphy adding the conversion.
Indiscipline form the Co. Fermanagh man saw them marched back 10 metres and with Longwell securing good lineout ball, Omagh controlled the game with MacLaine and McCain chipping in behind the Skins defence to turn them and suffocate the game.
Enniskillen tried to run the ball and refused to give up but McCain put the icing on the cake after finishing off good work form the pack. They mauled the ball deep before the lively scrum half went on an arcing run across the back line before putting the head down and burrowing over for his hat trick. The conversion was missed.
All in all a very satisfactory performance and result for Omagh but a massive challenge in Co. Fermanagh next week in what is set up for another titanic derby encounter.
Team : Neil Brown, Scott Barr, Adam Stephenson, Alan Heaney, Ryan Mitchell, Neil MacLaine, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander , Mervyn Edgar, Richard Hemphill, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Adam Longwell, David McFarland, James Catterson
Subs : Peter Todd, Lee Murphy


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