Omagh continue to live up to their “Cardiac Kids” moniker by squeezing home by a solitary point against Ballyclare in the crunch league match in Co. Tyrone on Saturday
This game had everything you would want in game of rugby, high skill level,commitment, desire to play a fast attractive game, intense physicality and a touch of controversy thrown in for good measure.
That Omagh held on for the win was testament to the spirit of the squad, despite being depleted to the tune of eight players meaning players played out of position and a first
game of the season for John Mitchell
at outhalf. The jump from the fourth fifteen to the firsts in a matter of a fortnight was no problem to the Castlederg man whose experience was very valuable in a nervy match such as this.
“We are delighted to secure the points today. This was a real test of our credentials with a fine performance form one to fifteen. We will enjoy a week off before the final match against the students”, smiled a happy Accies captain, Mervyn Edgar
, after the game.
Omagh played up the hill in the first period which saw both sides test each other out, the home side having their territorial advantage, but with both defences well organised and putting in some big hits, bonus point wins were never in the equation.
The Accies had the upper hand in the scrum , getting a nudge on, with the trio of Kyle Alexander
, Adam Pollock
and Mark Smyth
looking very assured, while the lineouts went with the throw. Mark Smyth
, revelling in his position as the senior man in the front row,again stepped up and was very visible in the loose early on while David Ward
used his trusty left foot to good advantage with offensive and defensive kicks. Richard Smyth
again showed his pace from the base of the scrum arcing into midfield and setting up good field positions though Ballyclare were strong at the breakdown and slowed ball down.
Ward opened the scoring for Omagh after 25 minutes of a keenly contested half with a monster penalty from 45metres out to take a deserved lead at a critical time.
With both defences on top , exuberance was notable with the temperature rising between the packs on a couple of occasions.
Ward missed another opportunity after 30 minutes following a penalty awarded after Omagh’s best period of play in the half. They moved the ball across the backs and recycled well with Jamie Lagan
controlling the game from scrum half.
Ballyclare were lucky not to be penalised when their winger deliberately pushed a Mitchell grubber kick in to touch under pressure from Alistair Ferguson, while a neat
chip through from Mitchell almost put Andy McFarland
away, though he won a 5 metre scrum for Omagh by chasing the winger down in the goal area. The Accies were held up
as they went for the line and the opportunity lost following the scrum.
With the tension rising Colin Lee
was shown the yellow card for an infringement at the breakdown and the visitors capitalised on this to open their account soon after. Just
before the opening try, Smyth was unlucky not to capitalise on a searing break from a lineout by Jonny Giboney
. The White Hart men drove round the fringes from a scrum before opening up the defence in the backs and supporting well to score a try, somewhat against the run of play. The try was converted to leave Ballyclare seven points to three ahead at the break.
Buoyed by this score, the visitors started the second half better and it took a cracking tackle by Ward to halt a mazy break by the centre, while Stuart McCain, who had a
strong all round game in the centre, pulled off another valuable tackle minutes later.
After weathering the storm and Lee returning, Omagh began to take the game to Ballyclare and were awarded a penalty following good work at a lineout. Ward slotted over the penalty to close the gap to 7-6.
Omagh then produced a fine backline move involving Lagan, Ward, McCain (twice) and was finished off in style by Lee Warnock
, much to the delight of the large crowd. The
conversion was missed.
With the visitors attacking, a loose punt downfield was returned 70 metres by the visiting fullback forcing Omagh into a nervy lineout 5 metres out, though a good take by Steffan Hamilton allowed the backs to clear.
Gaining momentum, Ballyclare were pushing hard as the game entered its last 15 minutes and were awarded a penalty for a deliberate knock on in the backs. The kick went over
to leave Omagh in front by the tiniest of margins. Indeed, the visitor’s backline began to look more and more dangerous though the referee whistled up for a forward pass ably assisted by a keen crowd.
The Cloughan men began to exert some pressure in the scrum, though Omagh were dogged and organised in defence with Mitchell communicating well to the youthful backline. A rush of blood to the head by a by a committed Warnock conceded a penalty though when he rushed out of defence to tackle his opposite number, though the ball was no-where to be seen.
The Ballyclare centre slotted over a kick from exactly the same place minutes earlier. He stepped up, drew back his trusty left foot and let fly. The wind was helping him and
the kick was on its way with a hushed Thomas Mellon playing Fields in anticipation of agony or ecstasy.
The touch judges differed in opinion, with the Omagh representative awarding the kick, though the visitors said no, and the referee confirmed the kick went wide.
Stunned, a sense of relief swept through the home crowd and eventually the pack secured possession allowing McCain to kick dead to signal the end of a pulsating match and keep their league ambitions alive.
Their final game is against UUC on 14th April at home and they will hope Grosvenor can do them a favour next week when they take on the students in Coleraine, as the season
comes to a thrilling climax.
Team: David Ward
, Andy McFarland
, Lee Warnock
, Stuart McCain, Alistair Ferguson, John Mitchell
, Jamie Lagan
, Kyle Alexander
, Adam Pollock
, Mark Smyth
Hamilton, Jonny Giboney
, Mervyn Edgar
©, Colin Lee
, Richard Smyth