Clogher Valley made a swift return to Ulster Rugby Championship One as a 32-15 bonus point win over Limavady at the Cran saw them secure the Championship Division Two title in dramatic fashion.

After a bonus point win last Tuesday night against Randalstown, Clogher knew that they needed the same on the final day of the season against a Limavady side who were sitting one point clear at the top going into the game.

It was Limavady who went in at the break with a 12-5 advantage but with the breeze at their backs, Stephen Bothwell’s Clogher produced a fine second half display to eventually run our 32-15 winners.

“Limavady came at us very strong in the first 30 minutes and led 12-5 at half time. In fairness there was a fairly strong wind and we had it in the second half. I thought that our scrum and our maul was superb in the second and the 16th man, the supporters, were brilliant and played a big part in getting us over the line,” he said.

And the coach was delighted for his players.

“They have put in a great amount of work over the year and I’m delighted for them. We have a number of young lads who have come in and done well while a few older players also played their part. We know we have a lot of work to do but we are delighted to be going up,” he added.

In front of a large home crowd, Limavady had an early opportunity when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts but the attempt struck the woodwork.

Limavady kept pressing and the pressure told after 24 minutes when Limavady scored an unconverted try out wide.

However, the Valley found a response soon after as Valley finally got out of their own half in open play.

A Valley scrum five metres from the Limavady try line was secured and they began inching towards the line. The scrum splintered and the ball was picked up by Ryan Wilson who drove towards the Limavady line. As the phases of play went into double figures, the Valley crept closer and closer to the try line with the pick and go tactic. The referee’s arm went out to indicate a penalty for the Valley, it was the home side’s opportunity and they pushed again. It was the skipper, Michael Treanor who had his hands on the ball as he crossed the line to score for the Valley. The try was not converted so the score remained 5–5.

As the half was coming to an end, Limavady yet again were camped in the Valley 22. As the Valley tried to run the ball out, they became isolated and conceded a penalty but again the kick was off target. However, with 40 minutes on the clock Limavady did cross the line for their second try, when converted gave the visitors a 5-12 lead at half time.

With the season on the line the home side came out with all guns blazing and they were back on level terms minutes into the second half.

A five metre scrum was again secured at Ryan Wilson’s feet, the scrum drove forward; as the Valley crossed the visitors line the Limavady flankers broke and tried to disrupt, but to no avail. Ryan Wilson had his hands on the ball and drove the last few feet to score. Paul Armstrong added the two points to make it 12-12.

The score did not remain level for long though as the visitors converted a penalty three minutes later to move into a 15-12 lead.

Half way through the second half, the Valley counter rucked in their own half, stealing the ball. Paul Armstrong cleared his lines with a monster kick, with the ball bouncing into touch on the Limavady 22 metre line. David Sharkey secured the ball and set up the driving maul. Despite several attempts by the Limavady forwards to pull it down, the maul crossed the line with Rodney Bennett in charge of the ball to score as Valley claimed a 17-15 lead.. Another Valley penalty was kicked into the corner. Valley hooker, Kyle Cobain found his target, as David Sharkey rose the highest. The maul was formed and the Valley drove towards the Limavady line. Several times the Limavady defence splintered or disrupted the maul, but the Valley kept it close and kept driving. At the five metre point, Phillip Moore saw a glimpse of the white line and drove around the side of the maul to touch down. With the bonus point secured and the score 22-15, all the Valley had to do was to win the game.

Limavady though launched another attack, but the Valley held strong and ripped the ball in the tackle. As the home side attacked into the Limavady half down the left side of the pitch, a high tackle was spotted by the referee and he awarded a penalty. Paul Armstrong stepped up and slotted between the posts to increase the lead to ten points.

As the clock ticked past the 40 minutes, Limavady had to throw caution to the wind. They started to run the ball out of their own 22 but Rodney Bennett expertly read the game and pounced in between the two Limavady centres to intercept the pass and race across the line. Paul Armstrong converted to leave the score 32-15 to seal the win and the Championship Division Two title for Clogher.