Ophir exited the Gordon West Cup at the quarter-final stages on Saturday as Holywood, the runaway leaders of Qualifying League Section 3, came away with a narrow 7 - 3 victory.
It had all the makings of a closely-fought duel and that’s how it transpired with just one score separating the two sides.
It was a match that lived up to all the expectations of a cup game: tight play, the struggle to retain possession, gaining ground by inches, not yards, and above all, some of the fiercest tackling ever seen at Magowan Park.
Ophir had better success than their opponents in the line-out but conversely, Holywood made every set scrum difficult for the home side.
The defences of both teams dominated all the action and this was reflected in the half-time score – a solitary penalty to Ophir. But, ominously, Holywood had narrowly missed two of their own penalty attempts and always looked dangerous in attack.
At the start of the second half, Ophir survived a massive onslaught from the Holywood pack and it took a quarter of an hour before the home team could set foot in opposition territory.
And then it was once again the stern defence that denied any scoring. Back came Holywood and on the Ophir 22-metre line, suddenly the tiniest chink appeared in the defensive back line.
Like a bullet, the Holywood scrum-half was through, and over the try line for a decisive 5 points. The conversion was good.
Midway through the half, Ophir were unlucky to lose centre, Dee O’Reilly, stretchered off with a groin injury, to be replace by Brendan Wade. But still they battled to break down the Holywood barrier with Karl Davis and Kenny Morton coming very close. Yet again the visitors stayed solid and came back with an attempted drop goal which crashed off the crossbar.
And that was it – a final score of 7 - 3 in Holywood’s favour. A thriller of a game where Ophir at least proved that they will be more than capable of competing with the best of the Section 3 if they continue their unbeaten league campaign.