Dungannon 14, Old Crescent 15
A last gasp Shane O’Brien penalty denied Dungannon the victory they deserved as Old Crescent took the spoils in a competitive Division 2B AIL League joust, at Stevenson Park on Saturday.
Fielding without the services of Seamus Mallon, Paul Armstrong and Mark Faloon amongst others, a depleted ‘Gannon acquitted themselves well and their disappointment at the final whistle was compounded by the fact that Old Crescent annexed the ‘Eric Shiels Memorial Trophy’ as Gannon were left settling for a losing bonus point.
The re-enactment of this Cup for the first time in 14 years between the two clubs saw the Limerick side travelling home to Rosbrien with silverware and four precious league points in tow.
Gannon enjoyed the best of the opening quarter exchanges as they battered the Old Crescent line. However, following a third successive scrum hopes of penalty try evaporated, when a knock on allowed the visitors to clear the danger.
Old Crescent made good their escape and, on 17 minutes, took the lead against the run of play, when good running behind a scrum created an overlap for winger Val McDermott to exploit. O’Brien missed the conversion but the Munster side enjoyed a 5-0 advantage.
That cushion was to be short lived because within three minutes Gannon responded with a try of their own. Tianua Poto intercepted a stray clearance out of defence and galloped in from 50 yards with his conversion nudging the hosts ahead
With set pieces dominating the play neither team troubled the scoreboard again before the break although Old Crescent should have regained the lead on the cusp of half time when O’Brien screwed a penalty narrowly wide to leave it 7-5 at the break.
The third quarter proved to be equally competitive with Peter Cashel making a superb break down the side line but when he was bundled into touch the referee was content to play on from the resulting line out.
Old Crescent were dealt a blow on 50 minutes when match official Daithi Flood sent Captain Alex Simpson to the bin for a high tackle but in his absence Gannon were unable to translate good possession and territory into scores.
‘Gannon did threaten the line and on the hour mark they punished another error in the Old Crescent defence as they ran the ball from deep. An alert Poto charged down the attempted clearance and crossed the whitewash for his second try. He added the conversion and at 14-5 Gannon looked to be home and hosed.
Old Crescent came roaring back and on 72 minutes number eight Brendan Guilfoyle powered over at the posts. O’Brien converted to set up a tense finale.
With time almost up Gannon were driving out of defence when the referee penalised them for holding on. O’Brien accepted the gift to kick a dramatic winner.
After the game Old Crescent Captain Simpson accepted the Eric Shiels Memorial Trophy from Malcom Shiels (Eric’s son) to the delight of his satisfied colleagues.