Ballyclare’s charge towards the Qualifying League Section 2 title stalled momentarily at the weekend in Omagh, where the locals refuelled their title ambitions.
Mellon Park was in good condition for this top-of-the-table clash that attracted a large crowd of spectators from both clubs. And despite playing up the slope, Omagh Accies turned round two points ahead.
Ballyclare paid dearly for having Graham McKinstry and Gary Weatherup sin-binned in separate incidents, with the hosts using their numerical advantage to score on each occasion.
Overall it was an untidy performance and coach Bob Young was less than impressed when the hosts were gifted two other tries as attempted clearances were charged down.
So, Accies are back in the promotion mix, trailing Ballyclare by eight points.
With four fixtures remaining, Ballyclare remain favourites to land the title.
Young had to make two changes for this vital fixture with lock McKinstry and winger James Greer replacing Matt Dailly and Adam Wardrop respectively.
Ballyclare started promisingly with James Greer crossing for an unconverted try, after linking with the Lawther brothers David and Niall.
In Omagh’s first serious foray into the 22, a charged-down clearance resulted in the hosts forging ahead with a score converted by Ward.
The lead changed hands when Robert Smith’s penalty was followed by an unconverted try by number eight Willie Logan, who picked up at the back of the scrum and forced his way over to give his side a 13-7 lead.
Ward reduced the deficit with a penalty and then added the extras when another poor clearance let a home forward in again, while Weatherup had been yellow-carded.
With the slope now in their favour, Omagh carried the momentum in to the second-half, and when McKinstry collected a yellow card Omagh added another seven points to lead 22-13.
At this stage ‘Clare fans were getting worried, and their hearts sank further when Accies clinched the bonus point with a fourth try.
Ballyclare’s hopes of securing a losing bonus point soared when prop David Lawther charged over for a score that Colin Morrow goaled to make it 29-20.
However, Omagh ensured the visitors returned to The Cloughan with nothing, when they scored the final converted try for a convincing 36-20 win.
“Ward was in lethal form with the boot, missing only once all afternoon and his contribution of 11 points was a vital difference between the teams,” stated a disgruntled Ballyclare official.
Ballyclare: R Smith: G Byers, N Loughlin, D Crawford, J Greer; N Lawther, C Morrow; A Boyd, A Wylie, D Lawther, G McKinstry, R Boyd (C), G Weatherup, J McKinstry, W Logan.
Saturday’s fixture: 1st XV v Limavady, (h).
n The 2nd XV lost 34-19 in a Junior League Section 1 fixture in Coleraine where Michael Kirk, William Stevenson and Jordan Brownlee scored tries, with Stephen Beasant adding two conversions.Kirk had an outstanding game at wing-forward.
n The 3rd XV face possible relegation from Junior 3 after failing to field a team for the trip to Ballynahinch.
n The 4th XV was scheduled to travel to Banbridge 4, but this one was postponed, depriving Mark Fox’s side valuable game time ahead of their Forster Cup semi-final against Armagh 3 or Ballymena 5 on 22nd March at The Cloughan.