SATURDAY proved to be a case of what might have been for Strabane RFC firsts, who fell to an agonising 14-12 defeat at Newry.
One positive from the result is that Strabane lost 39-0 there last season, so to pick up a losing bonus point shows an improvement. However, having failed to capitalise on having a strong wind at their backs means that a narrow defeat, could easily have been a comfortable win had they taken their first half chances.
After reaching the turn at 0-0, Strabane found themselves facing the strong breeze and after going 7-0 behind, Keith Gamble’s try drew them to withing two points. Unfortunately, another lapse allowed Newry in to make it 14-7 before a Joel Smyth touchdown and Matthew Wilson left just the two points between the sides.
That was as good as it got for the visitors though, and they faced the long journey home knowing it was a case of so near, but so far.
“It was frustrating because the game was there to be won,” mused new Strabane coach, Adrian Sweeney.
“It would have been great to win because in this league teams are going to beat each other and if you can pick up the away wins it could make a big difference.
“It was a step forward and we were so close to getting the full four points, which would have made a massive difference, but we just didn’t take advantage of the wind in the first half.”
A lack of patience within the Strabane side proved their undoing during the first half as they rushed several good openings, which were then spurned as the home side managed to hold off spells of sustained pressure from the vistiors.
In the second half, a couple of missed tackles and individual errors proved the difference between the sides as Newry took advantage of Strabane’s lapses in concentration to score two converted tries either side of Gamble’s opener, which came after a series of pick and goes before he touched down for an unconverted effort in the corner.
After conceding the second score, Strabane responded again with Smyth getting the touchdown after a period of well constructed and sustained pressure, with Wilson adding the extras.
Unfortunately for the visitors, they were unable to test the Newry defence again during the final five minutes as the home side held on for the victory.
“On the balance of play, the way they defended against the wind, they probably deserved to win if I’m honest,” Sweeney conceded.
“The second half was frustrating because, as you’d expect given the strength of the wind, they had the territorial advantage but we actually played better against the wind – we did what we should have done in the first.
“The frustrating thing about the second half was that every time we did something good, we then gave them a way back into the game through silly mistakes.
“An away losing bonus point is something to take away from a game we got hammered in last year, but if we had been a wee bit more clinical in the first half we could have built up a 12 or 14 point lead at half time with all the possession we had.”
Strabane: Keith Gamble, Ryan McKittrick, Lee McLaughlin, Simon McSparron (cpt), Clive Hawkes, Sebastian Thogersen, Richard Olphert, Joel Smyth, Peter Smith, David Rankin, Nathan Cummings, Matthew Wilson, Anders Mindstrup, Graeme McCarter, Mark Doherty. Replacements: Darren Preston, Johnny Robinson.
Strabane didn’t have a fixture this weekend, but return to action at Holywood in the league on Saturday, September 28 at 2.30pm.