WHEN they’re good, they tend to be very good, but when they’re not, they tend to allow teams into games and gain scores that should never have been on offer and last Saturday’s 26-25 defeat to Bangor was the case of the latter for Omagh Accies.
For 73 minutes of their clash at Upritchard Park, the Tyrone side led. They took the lead through a Scott Elliott penalty after five minutes and added tries from Ricky Hemphill, Robbie Sproule and Matthew Clyde, with Elliott adding the rest with his trusty right peg.
However, despite registering 25 points, 17 of which came in the first half, errors and a lack of clinical edge meant Phil Marshall’s men were never able to create daylight and kill off the Bangor challenge, which was maintained until 90 seconds from time when Zach Kerr scored their winning bonus point try.
“We played all the rugby, they had four opportunities and scored four times!,” observed a frustrated Marshall. All four of their tries were our mistakes but what hurt us was we didn’t field the high ball well and there was a 15 minute spell during the second half when we allowed our defence to drop slightly at the breakdown and that cost us.
“Other than that, we played some really nice rugby. There were 10/15 minute periods when I was thinking ‘we’re going to win this easy’ but we had two or three line breaks held two or three metres short of the line and we didn’t convert them.
“It was just one of those days and then with about two minutes to go they broke away and scored in the corner.”
Ahead of the game, Marshall knew he would be without strong carrying second row forwards Jonny and Jamie Sproule, so brought four front rowers with him in an attempt to negate their absence.
And while he felt that decision worked to an extent, there was nothing he could do about the way the game panned out and his side’s inability to kill off their hosts.
“We disrupted their lineout well and even though we were without our two big second rows, we still managed to cope in the scrum. Yes, they got the nudge on us a few times, but there was no problem,” he observed.
“Because we lost the two second rows, I brought four props and the bottom line was we had to try to counteract that. I expected us to have a hard day at the office in terms of scrummaging because that’s what they base their game on.
“And it was, they are a big, heavy, strong pack, but we coped, we coped admirably with it. It just wasn’t to be because we didn’t have that cutting edge, we just weren’t clinical enough.
“On another day, this would have been a different game because it was 17-14 at half-time and it wouldn’t have been a travesty if it had been 17-0.
“And we scored first in the second half but then we allowed them to score straight away but when it got to 25-21 I was like ‘happy days’ and then they broke away with 90 seconds away having stolen the ball from the breakdown again.”
Today, Omagh host Sundays Well in what Marshall knows is a must win game even at this early stage of the season, but if they are to achieve that he believes his side need a different mental approach.
“I don’t know if we’ll have that many back, one of the big second rows, but other than that it will be something similar to what played [against Bangor],” he acknowledged.
“There’s a mindset thing, we have to get a wee bit smarter in relation to how to see games out. We could never get to the point where we were safe and there were so many times when we should have.
“[Bangor was] another learning curve and another away game over, but we need to win at home against Sundays Well, there’s no doubt about that.”