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Instonians' defence stands firm over Omagh to clinch Cup glory

By Jonathan Bradley

Instonians won the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup final at a soaked Kingspan Stadium last night thanks to a supreme defensive effort to triumph over Omagh.

The Qualifying One leaders, only playing in the junior ranks after last season's relegation from the All-Ireland League, were under pressure for long periods but held firm and sealed victory after taking the few opportunities afforded to them.

Defying their underdogs tag, the Accies began strongly and dominated both territory and possession during the first half but were unable to translate that superiority into points.

With their halfback pairing of Stewart McCain and Lee Murphy managing the conditions impressively, an accurate kicking game was able to pin Instonians back in their own half.

With five minutes on the clock, the south Belfast side did well to repel a threatening rolling maul set up by Murphy's kick to touch before another lineout, this time on Instonians' throw, also created an opportunity.

When Glen Baxter's dart was disrupted by Johnny Giboney, the ball fell into the arms of his hooker Mervyn Edgar and, while he was halted, the ball was recycled through the hands of Andrew Ferguson, McCain and Yonga Taleni.

However, when Murphy tried to spread the play wide, the ball was knocked on.

A lengthy penalty attempt from Murphy fell short of the posts 10 minutes before half-time while a scrum penalty five minutes later also saw the fly-half's attempt lack the distance to open the scoring.

The next set-piece brought an Inst penalty and a strong kick from Matthew Keane moved Wilbur Leacock's men to the edge of the opposing 22.

The subsequent maul was driven forward and, when the ball was moved inside, Omagh were pinged for not rolling away in front of the posts, allowing Fraser Wright to comfortably provide the three points.

Omagh will have felt unfortunate to be trailing at the turn but, now playing into the wind, the resolute nature of the victors' defence had proven too tough to break down.

In the second half, Instonians flexed their forward muscles by bringing on reinforcements in the pack and, after being held up over the line in the 55th minute, the refreshed unit drove their way to a penalty try from the next scrum.

Wright added the routine conversion and the score now stood at 10-0.

That lead would be extended further eight minutes later when Omagh were whistled for coming in at the side and Wright knocked over the penalty from just inside the 22.

The deficit saw Omagh play with an increased ambition despite the continuing rain but Instonians' resolute defence kept them out until the final whistle.

Both sides will now return focus to their respective promotion bids with Instonians facing an important Qualifying One contest against their nearest challengers, Clogher Valley, this weekend while Omagh meet Enniskillen in Qualifying 2.

INSTONIANS: (15-9) Robbie Kirk; Marcus Hart, Joe Fryers, David Scott, Zach Finlay; Fraser Wright, Matthew Keane; (1-8) Fergal Lynch, Glen Baxter, Josh Cregan, Conor Brockschmidt, Sebastiano Folla, Patrick Bell, Robert Whitten, Rory McCurry; (16-20) Alan Whitten, Conor Gallagher, Patrick Marks, Robbie Martin, Andrew Keane.

OMAGH: (15-9) Alistair Beckett; Neil Brown, Michael Gibson, Yonga Taleni, Ryan Mitchell; Lee Murphy, Stewart McCain; (1-8): Steven Lyons, Mervyn Edgar, Mark Smith, Johnny Giboney, Mark Miller, James Catterson, Richard Harper, Andrew Ferguson; (16-20) David Thompson, Jamie Sproule, Richard Smith, Alan Heaney, Scott Elliott.

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