It was supposed to be a triumphant Ophir First XV return to Magowan Park after winning the Qualifying League 4 championship at Cavan last week. But the reality was that full-back David Walker salvaged a last-gasp 13-11 win with a late penalty.
Nothing went smoothly for the home side from the moment the ball was kicked off.
Full-back, David Walker was a little unlucky to miss an early penalty opportunity, and Virginia easily snuffed out the Ophir offensive play. In the 20th minute, Ophir’s tight-head prop John-Joe Flood had to leave the field with a wrist injury. The subsequent uncontested scrums left Ophir without their sole area of superiority on the pitch and it showed when, instead of keeping the ball in hand and using the strength of the Ophir pack, a deft chip ahead was booted back down the field and the Virginia out-half won the race for the touchdown.
Then, more trouble for Ophir when Dave Lucas was yellow-carded for getting in the way of the Virginia winger chasing a loose ball. The visitors took full advantage of their numerical superiority and slotted home a penalty to lead 8 – 0 at the break.
There was a ray of light for the hosts when Lucas returned to the action and a Virginia prop was sin-binned. With parity restored, the home side landed a try courtesy of Anthony Davis which Walker converted. In the next 10 minutes both sides hit successful penalties, with Walker’s putting him on 199 points for the season.
Then came apparent disaster for Ophir: another prop and Dave Lucas both had to retire injured. On their own line with only 12 fit men and the referee calling the last play of the match, Ophir at last showed the team spirit and commitment that had carried them undefeated through the league.
They were awarded a penalty 35 metres out, and Walker achieved a personal 202 points with a dramatic last kick of the game.