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CIYMS stage a late rescue mission to earn semi replay

CIYMS 25 Dundalk 25 - All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-final

Jonathan Bradley

There was high drama in the All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals at Belmont on Saturday afternoon as CIYMS rescued a draw against Dundalk with the last play of the game only for bad light to halt play before extra-time could begin.

With floodlights currently being installed at the east Belfast ground, and darkness having already descended by the time Sam Baker's nerveless conversion knotted the score, the teams will now have their replay at Dundalk's Mill Road this Saturday.

The winners will play Bangor for the right to lift the trophy after the North Down side overcame Clogher Valley in the other last four tie.

While the somewhat farcical end to proceedings threatened to overshadow the enthralling finish, the Ulster side will be thrilled with their performance against a side rated by many as the best junior squad in Ireland.

Mark Scott was the hero of the hour for the home side, the flanker crashing over the line from close range following pressure in the final minutes.

After seeing his try ensure a replay, he said: "If the game was played a few weeks later, we'd have the floodlights up, and we wouldn't have to go to Dundalk for a replay.

"The last couple of weeks have really taken it out of us. But in the last 10 minutes we were able to step it up and grind out a draw.

"We only really performed for half of that game so if we can get to Dundalk and work hard for the full 80 hopefully we can get a result."

CI had taken the lead with just two minutes on the clock thanks to a penalty from Baker but Dundalk spurned their chances and the slender 3-0 lead lasted right up until the 36th minute.

It was then, however, that Dundalk finally translated their possession into points.

A frantic passage of play instigated by a break from Stephen McGee had the visitors looking likely to score but CI's defence had appeared to halt their momentum.

However, MJ McKevitt scooped up the loose ball and, after a series of pick and goes, the forward pack eventually drove the ball over the line.

Ultan Murphy's conversion moved the score to 7-3 but, after a number of delays due to injuries, there was still plenty of time for a response.

Dundalk's passive defending was exploited by number 8 Matt Armstrong who alertly gathered a spilled ball and sped away to score.

The restart did not go the required 10 metres and from the resulting scrum, matters improved further for CI.

Armstrong turned provider, peeling off from the base and offloading to scrum-half Michael Wilson, who produced a solid hand off to keep McGee at bay and score.

Baker was left with a testing conversion that he ultimately put wide of the mark.

Just after the turn, Robert Farrell's try brought Dundalk back within a score before a pair of penalties were knocked over by Murphy to leave the Leinster men 18-15 ahead.

With 20 minutes remaining, hooker Lotu Naku showed good strength to muscle his way over the line and the conversion left CI 10 points in arrears.

A long range penalty from Baker brought hope but, with eight minutes left, Dundalk looked set to seal the win only for Stephen Murphy to knock the ball on over the line.

With that reprieve, CI drove their way upfield and a succession of penalties saw David Whatley shown yellow.

Defending stoutly with 14 men, Dundalk still looked set to hold on after they repelled the advances of several dangerous CI forwards but when Scott saw a gap, he forced his way over the line to bring about the game's incredible conclusion.

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