Tullamore 12 Clogher Valley 41

Clogher Valley took another scalp on the road with a strong 41 – 12 win over 5th-placed Tullamore.

With the bonus point win the Valley only require one more point from their last fixture of the season to secure the league.

Whilst this could come from a losing bonus point, or a draw would suffice, coach Stephen Bothwell will not be looking for either and will expect his side to take all five points against Ballina.

Galwegians, who are sitting second, five points behind Clogher Valley would have to win with a bonus point to draw level with the Valley on 70 points.

Impartial Reporter: Valley Skipper Paul Armstrong tries to squeeze between the two Tullamore defenders.Valley Skipper Paul Armstrong tries to squeeze between the two Tullamore defenders. (Image: Impartial Reporter)

The Valley made the 100-mile journey to Tullamore in Co. Offaly knowing they had to win the match to get to within touching distance of the league title.

A large number of travelling supporters also made that journey to make the 16th person on the pitch and they did not disappoint. 

It was however the home side who were first on the score sheet.

Despite the Valley being dominant in the set pieces, Tullamore took a short lineout and caught the Valley on the hop. They made their way up towards the Valley line and moments later crossed the line to open the scoring. The conversion was good, and the home side led 7-0.

Even with a strong wind blowing in the faces, the Valley were dominating most of the play, but simple errors were allowing Tullamore back into the game.

Impartial Reporter: Valley scrum half, Matthew Bothwell hands off the Tullamore defender.Valley scrum half, Matthew Bothwell hands off the Tullamore defender. (Image: Impartial Reporter)

A Valley scrum five meters from the Tullamore line was secured and the pack drove towards the line, and Callum Smyton broke at the ideal time and crossed the line to score the visitor's first try.

David Maxwell, with a superb kick against a strong wind from out wide, added the additional two points and the teams were level at 7-7.

The restart was kicked deep into Valley’s 22. The visitors spread the ball wide and weaved their way up the pitch.

A grubber kick was threaded through the Tullamore defensive line and after two more phases of play, Michael Bothwell came through like a steamtrain to score close to the posts.

David Maxwell added the conversion and the Valley led 14-7 at the break.

Impartial Reporter: Valley's David Sharkey with support from David Maxwell makes 25 meters down the right wing.Valley's David Sharkey with support from David Maxwell makes 25 meters down the right wing. (Image: Impartial Reporter)

Shortly into the second half a serious injury to a Tullamore player stopped play and after a 15 minute break, the match was moved to the adjoining pitch.

However, with this pitch at 90 degrees to the main pitch, the Valley lost their 2nd half wind advantage but it mattered little.

Kyle Cobane stole the ball at the breakdown and several plays later, David Stinson drove over for the Valley’s third try with David Maxwell adding the conversion and the Valley’s lead stretched to 14 points, now leading 21-7.

It wasn’t long before the try bonus point was added.

A penalty was awarded to the Valley on halfway and David Maxwell kicked the ball down the line to get within 15 metres of the Tullamore line. 

Stinson secured the ball in the lineout and moments later Callum Smyton broke through two tackles to score and the Valley now led 26-7.

Tullamore rallied and were next on the score sheet, but at 26-12 this was to be the end of the home side’s scoring.

A lineout was overthrown and Matthew Bothwell pounced, breaking through the Tullamore defence, in the tackle he off-loaded to David Stinson who drove over for his second try.

Minutes later it was the turn of Taine Haire to get on the score sheet with a well-taken try in the corner.

Impartial Reporter: Player of the Match, David Stinson scores his second try for Clogher Valley against Tullamore.Player of the Match, David Stinson scores his second try for Clogher Valley against Tullamore. (Image: Impartial Reporter)

As Tullamore tried to make the score look as if there had been a contest, the Valley stole the ball in the tackle in their own 22m area.

The ball was kicked long and Robbie Mills and Taine Haire sprinted hard after it, the Tullamore full-back held on too long and the penalty was awarded to the visitors.

After several phases of play, skipper Paul Armstrong crossed the line out on the opposite wing to score Valley’s seventh try of the afternoon to round off a convincing win.

This sets the scene for a fantastic weekend of rugby at Clogher Valley. Valley 1st XV play Ballina at home in the final league game of the season hoping to win the league, whilst the Valley Women are at Kingspan Stadium in the Suzzanne Fleming Cup against Banbridge, who sit 2nd in the Ulster Women’s Championship A league, one league above Clogher Valley. Both games are at 2.30pm on Saturday, April 6.