Sports

Accies one step away from All-Ireland rugby

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Accies one step away from All-Ireland rugby thumbnailRyan Mitchell heads down the sideline for Omagh Accies.

SATURDAY proved to be another historic day at Conneywarren as the Accies moved within one step of achieving senior status again and playing All-Ireland league rugby next year with a well-deserved 25-13 victory over a committed Clonmel outfit.

Omagh ...25
Clonmel...13

Three first half tries, a fine defensive performance for the first half hour of the second period, and two late penalties saw the Accies home in very wet, tricky conditions earning them a trip to Drogheda in the final match of the season.

“I am delighted with the performance today," beamed a delighted Phil Marshall after the game. "We wanted a quick start and got off to a flier with three tries in the first period. We knew they would come back at us, and were prepared for a tough second half."

"We defended brilliantly, the first time tackling was impressive, the organisation was fine and our fitness really showed up as they had a real go at us for the 20 minutes after half time, but once we weathered the storm, I knew we had the nous to hold on."

A combination of three good tries, one from a well worked move, another from an opportunist quick penalty and the last from a waltz through the defence by James Catterson paved the way to the historic win, with committed defence, superior fitness and most importantly solid game management and an intelligent kicking game proving to be hugely important as Omagh now look ahead to a showdown with Boyne this weekend in Drogheda.

 

Quick start

A quick start from the Accies saw the impressive Adam Longwell involved early on, prominent in attack and a nuisance at the breakdown, and it was from his early break, Omagh set the platform for a well, taken score. The move was carried on into the Clonmel 22 before Stewart McCain linked with Mervyn Edgar for the flanker to score another crucial try in this memorable season. The returning Lee Murphy added the extras to secure a 7-0 lead after five minutes.

McCain used his box kicks well, while Murphy and Scott Elliott, who had another strong game at fullback, mixed up their kicking game well, pushing Clonmel deep into their own 22 and keeping the pack going forward at every opportunity on a day when ball handling was difficult to start and became increasingly difficult as the game went on.

The Munster champions had a very strong lineout and used this to good effect to secure clean ball, though the Accies defended the set piece very well all afternoon. Pressure from the Tipperary side resulted in a kissed penalty from fullback, Connor Cooney, though the same player made no mistake after 14 minutes following a scrum infringement from the home side to leave the score 7-3 to Omagh.

Awarded a penalty on the Clonmel 22, McCain surprised the napping defence and took a quick tap, darting to the 10 metre line before offloading to the supporting Edgar. Using all of his experience, the Dromore man took the tackle and reached round the tackler to slip the ball to the marauding Catterson who wasn't to be stopped on his way to the line. Murphy tagged on the conversion for 14-3.

 

'Strong and organised'

The Munster side had the upper hand in the set piece and launched the powerful back five at the Accies though the first time tackling, led by Richard Hemphill, and midfield by Scott Barr and Neil MacLaine was strong and organised.

Another penalty form Omagh saw them set up a maul which was downed illegally. From just on the 22 they scrummed down but not sniff Catterson who took the quick heel and nipped round the blindside, brushed off three weak attempts at tackled and powered over for a fine individual score. The conversion was missed.

Omagh lost Richard Smyth to the sin bin and weathered several waves of attacks while Cooney was narrowly wide with another effort, though the visitors flexed their muscles with a series pf pick and god inside the Omagh five metre line. Time and time these were repelled before the referee awarded Clonmel a scrum and was quick to award a penalty score from a heeled set piece with Cooney doing the honours to leave the score 19-10 on the stroke of half time.

 

Momentum gathering

The Tipperary side started quicker and soon pegged three points back when Coney slotted over a penalty to close the game to 19-13 and with momentum gathering, they launched series of series of attacks on the Omagh line. The onslaughts were fierce, but with sound tackling first up, a refusal to panic, excellent organisation and discipline, the Accies withstood 20 minutes of pressure, eventually clearing the lines.

Using the same tactics of keeping the ball in front of their pack, the Munster men pushed Omagh deep for the next 20 minutes was outhalf, Dylan Cadogan kicking well for territory and turning the Accies round, until the biggest cheer of the day when resonated around Conneywarren when Elliott put in a relieving kick which deflated the visitors and gave the home side both belief and some breathing space.

With Omagh now getting a few scraps of possession, they looked to hang on to the ball and move wide but could not strong much together and were soon on defensive duties though they hung in dutifully, all the time weathering the storm Clonmel were bringing.

 

Final ten

With the game entering its final ten minutes and only six points separating the sides, Omagh took a big ball against the head which galvanised the side and gave them added energy and conviction. They attacked wide and used a very good kick chase game to secure possession and draw the penalty just outside the 22 for a late hit.

The referee marched the Munster side back another ten metres allowing Murphy, who had taken a big hit seconds later, to pick himself up and slot over a vital kick to ensure the visitors would need to scores to win.

This score gave the Accies increased confidence, spinning the ball wide and looking to move the tiring Clonmel pack around. Clonmel began to get a bit ragged and it was no surprise when the fitter home team were awarded another penalty minutes later which Elliott stroked over with aplomb.

From the restart, Omagh gathered with skipper Kyle Alexander bulldozing a defender from the ruck only for the Clonmel lock, Ronan Crosse, to strike out and be brandished with a straight red card and saw a penalty to his side reversed to compound a miserable day in Tyrone for the Tipperary men.

The referee blew minutes later to the delight of the Accies faithful who can now plan a visit to Louth next week to play Boyne with a place in the All-Ireland league awaiting the winner. Already a great season, a victory would be the icing on the cake, but either way it is a brilliant achievement for a young Omagh side which will only get better as they mature and continue to develop.

Accies: Scott Elliott, Ryan Mitchell, Scott Barr, Neil MacLaine, Neil Brown, Lee Murphy, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander, Richard Hemphill, David Thompson, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Mervyn Edgar, Adam Longwell, James Catterson

Subs : Richard Smyth, Adam Pollock, Matthew Clyde, Alan Heaney, Matty Eccles

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