Sports

Valley survival hopes boosted with slender win over leaders

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

FIRST place versus ninth was the scenario at Chambers Park on Saturday, with the visitors emerging victorious as their campaign to hold on to their Junior One status intensifies.

Portadown R.F.C. ...14
Clogher Valley R.F.C. ...17

It was a nervy start from the Valley, over enthusiasm led to a series of early penalties which pinned the visitors back in the opening period. Inevitably, a penalty in front of posts gave Woods the Portadown scrumhalf the opportunity to open their account which he duly did.

Stung by the reversal Clogher upped the tempo, the pack were starting to flex their muscles and gain an edge over their counterparts. A great Trotter penalty into the corner gave rise to some optimism but a badly executed lineout resulted in Portadown making sixty metres up-field. Ryan Wilson made a crunching mid-field tackle to halt a dangerous sortie as Clogher held on.

Several scrums against the head and strong Wilson carries restored play to mid-field. A Trotter penalty rebounded off the upright as the Valley tried to get back on terms. A Woods snipe around the side caused panic but it was to be well dealt with. Then just as the visitors were settling to the task they offered the hosts a Christmas gift.

Static possession was shovelled out the back line, a loose pass was pounced on by Portadown who raced 50 metres to the corner for the first touchdown. It went unconverted but at that moment it looked gloomy from a Valley perspective.

Undaunted Clogher in the remaining 10 minutes of the half really turned the screw on the Portadown pack. Several scrums saw the hosts finding reverse gear. Penalty after penalty was converted into scrum after scrum and eventually the inevitable happened the official had no option but to award the penalty try. Trotter goaled it and, at 8-7 at the interval, it was game on.

The second period opened as the first had with Clogher conceding penalty after penalty. It wasn't the case of over zealous refereeing but a case of over anxious play by the visitors. Woods had two attempts at goal landing the second one to stretch the lead to four points.

Gradually though Clogher settled with the' grunt brigade' to the fore of all that was good. The Peter Pan effect on Ryan Wilson has been amazing this season as the No 8 produces big performance after big performance.

The return of Sharkey has also been significant; his quiet leadership is a settling factor to those around him. Prop forward Hopper has worked hard on his game and the improvement is there to be seen.

It was at scrum time that Clogher were at their best with Portadown having no answers to the power of the visitors. Indeed it was this that led to the Valleys second try. Ryan Wilson launched himself forward of an advancing scrum to grab his customary try. It went unconverted but Clogher were now ahead for the first time in the encounter.

Not for long though another Woods penalty restored the lead to Portadown as the game drifted towards the final quarter. Trotter arrowed a great penalty into the corner to set up another opportunity for the visitors. Perfect line out execution followed by an aggressive maul resulted in skipper Cobain getting the all important touchdown. It went unconverted but Clogher had their noses in front once again.

Time was running out but Portadown had one more glorious chance. A try seemed on the cards as their winger raced for the corner flag but Philip Wilson at full back had the pace and tenacity to drag him down inches from the line and the day was to belong to Clogher Valley.

Another step forward in a season where small steps are significant and league status is paramount.

Next Saturday a break from league action as the Valley head south for the All Ireland Junior Cup semi-final at Ashbourne in Leinster.

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