Clogher Valley 14 Omagh Academicals 18

Clogher Valley suffered their second defeat in the All Ireland League 2C against local rivals Omagh. According to the team’s performance so far in the season, this should have been an easy win for Clogher Valley. Omagh were sitting third from bottom with six loses from eight matches, whilst the Valley were on top of the league with seven from eight wins. However, in sport the ‘Form Book’ is not always a guarantee and this is certainly the case in this encounter.

The Valley got off to the perfect start, with their first score after one minute.

Good interplay between the backs on the left wing, seen them slice through the Omagh defence to put Paul Armstrong through to score in the corner. Armstrong then converted his own try and the Valley led 7-0.

Moments later when the Valley scrum put Omagh back several metres, many thought this was going to be an easy afternoon for the men in blue and green.

It was to be Valley mistakes and indiscretion that let Omagh back into the game. Two Omagh penalties in the centre of the park, gave the visitors two clear kicks at goal, which they duly took, bringing the score back to 7-6 after 13 minutes.

It was these Valley mistakes that was to be the key to the game. Omagh played for territory, kicking the ball long at every opportunity, just trying to survive for another few moments. Contrast to this the Valley were trying to play expansive rugby.

For long periods, the Valley were playing most of the game in the Omagh half, but after numerous phases of play, they would either knock the ball on, or resolute Omagh defence would give the visitors possession.

At the interval, the score line remained 7-6 to the hosts. Reflecting on the first 40 minutes, Omagh were dogged in their defence, more aggressive and were not going to roll over to the league leaders.

It was the visitors who were to score first in the second half. A chip over the top, catching the Valley defence flat, followed by a kind bounce and Omagh backs were in to touch down. The try wasn’t converted but the visitors were now in the lead 11-7. This gave them hope and they became more aggressive at the break down, forcing even more mistakes from the Valley.

Omagh’s Spencer at every opportunity put the ball aerial and forced the Valley to play from deep which was extremely effective and ultimately give his team a much-needed win.

Despite the Valley dominance, they could not breakdown the Omagh defence.

The Valley crossed the Omagh line on several occasions, but the ball was held up and the visitors survived for another few minutes.

As the game was drawing to a close, it was the visitors who were to score next. Omagh secured their lineout, set up a driving maul, their backs joined in and eventually they crossed the line to score their second try of the afternoon. The conversion was good, and they led 18-7. The home crowd was stunned into silence.

As the clocked ticked towards the 40 minutes, many believed that not only were they going to get beaten by Omagh, but to come away with no points from the encounter was a realistic proposition.

Finally, the Valley upped the pace. Taking quick penalties and throwing the ball around, they worked their way down the pitch. David Sharkey and Paul Armstrong made significant gains, and suddenly the Valley were in the scoring zone.

Omagh were back in survive mode, doing what they could to disrupt the Valley game. The referee awarded several penalties to the Valley in front of the posts, but three points was not enough to gain a losing bonus point, the home side needed at least four points to get within seven points.

The Valley scrum was to be dominant again and after several phases of play Kyle Cobane drove over to gain the five points, Armstrong added the conversion to make it seven points with the score 18-14 to Omagh. As the referee called the game to a close the Valley had secured their losing bonus point.

The win for Omagh has put them four points ahead of Ballina, who are second from bottom. The Valley are knocked off poll position in the league after Galwegians overcome Ballina with a bonus point.

It was not a good day for the Valley. The mistakes were costly in terms of possession and with a malfunctioning lineout, Coach Stephen Bothwell has work to do over the Christmas break to get the side back on track. Omagh wanted this game more than the Valley, and this came through in ‘buckets full’.

This Omagh desire for the win was also reflected in the 2nds XV encounter earlier in the afternoon, with the visitors winning 12-7. Reflecting on this game, there wasn’t much between both sides, just Omagh wanted it more. The 1st XV have a four week break over the Christmas period and the 2nds a three week break.