STRABANE recorded a confidence-boosting victory over second-placed Newry at Bradley Way on Saturday last that kept them sixth in the table, but importantly closed the gap on those above them.
The two sides met in County Armagh earlier in the season with Newry coming out on top 14-12, but on this occasion it was the Tyrone men who sneaked past the winning post. And with both sides to do battle once more in the Gordon West Cup in February, Strabane head coach, Adrian Sweeney is anticipating another close encounter.
“It was a good game between two well-matched teams,” acknowledged Sweeney. “We played well, we played some great rugby at times.
“It sets up the quarter-final well, so we know there couldn’t be two better matched teams!”
The home side started brightly and enjoyed most of the early attacking possession, but found themselves 0-9 down before Anders Mindstrup scored the opening try of the game, converted by Matthew Wilson on the stroke of half-time.
Strabane started the second half on the front foot and they opened the scoring 10 minutes after the restart and it was one to savour with clinical off-loads leading to a fine score on the wing from Wilson, converted by the same player.
At 14-9 up, the home side then eased off and Newry raced back into contention with a soft try from a Strabane point of view with the strong-running visiting prop breaking through two weak tackles to make it 14-16.
The see-saw nature of the game continued and Strabane responded again with Wilson again in the thick of things, kicking over a penalty to put his side in front by just a point.
Strabane remained on top, producing a slick period of play that led to Keith Gamble scoring their third try of the game before Wilson added what would prove to be a key conversion to put the home side 24-16 ahead.
At that stage, it looked like the home side would go on to claim a bonus point win, but they perhaps over-elaborated too much and allowed Newry in for an intercept try that left the minimum between the sides at the death.
Strabane now turn their attentions to a third clash with Letterkenny this season when they travel to their nearest neighbours in the league tomorrow.
And having already done the double over the County Donegal outfit, Sweeney is hoping for more of the same this time around.
“It would be nice to win the three games against them, but it won’t be easy because I’m sure they will be desperate for a result,” he said.
Strabane RFC: Shane McLaughlin, Gary Smith, Lee McLaughlin (cpt), Clive Hawkes, Keith Gamble, Mark Young, Sebastian Laumann, Alan Fleming, Peter Smith, David Rankin, Graeme McCarter, Anders Mindstrup, Jack Graham, Nathan Cummings, David Riddles. Replacements: Oran O’Neill, Gareth Duncan.