There was a huge basement battle at overcast Stevenson Park on Saturday when Dungannon and Bruff fought out a close encounter, the home supporters the ones with a mixture of relief and delight at the final whistle.
The visitors did just enough to go 10 points clear at the break before Dungannon sprung to life late in the second half. An unconverted try left just 5 points between the sides before a rousing finish unearthed a penalty try at the end of a 7 minute siege on the Bruff line. The simple conversion gave Dungannon the points as the final whistle sounded. Dungannon had quite simply ‘snatched victory from the jaws of defeat’.
Bruff looked the better side in the opening half and with the wind on their backs out-half, Brian Cahill kept the visitors on the front foot. That said, Dungannon should have had a try in the opening minutes when a notable midfield burst from Ali Birch saw his final pass ‘knocked on’ just three metres from the line.
Stuart McCloskey followed that up with a searing break before Bruff halted the danger.
The Limerick men settled after that and their abrasive pack soon applied pressure. Hooker, Cathal O’Regan initiated a move down the blind side and, when that moved infield, Dungannon had the misfortune to lose Michael Dunleavy to the ‘sin bin’. Brian Cahill popped over the simple penalty on 9 minutes.
Buoyed up by the early lead Bruff continued to hold the upper hand and following an impressive lineout drive Brian Cahill soon found space for brother Owen who duly sent winger, Mark Cosgrave scampering in. Brian Cahill added the extras to send Bruff 10 points clear on 12 minutes.
It was time for Dungannon to get back in the game but too many turnovers overshadowed good work from centres Paul Magee and Glen Telford. Mark Jenkinson’s team did have chances from the tee but McCloskey fired wide on 33 and 38 minutes.
Just before the break David Egner lit up the scene with a dart down the left wing before Andrew Breen fielded his chip and chase.
Dungannon had breeze advantage in the second half but still conceded too many turnovers against a good Bruff defence. However, one promising back line movement was foiled by a deliberate ‘knock on’. Jaryd Bennett drilled the ensuing penalty to the corner before the Bruff hooker was sent to the ‘sin bin’.
Dungannon held good field position and, when McCloskey broke clear, he offloaded to the supporting Derek Hall who crashed over on 55 minutes. With just 5 points between the sides, the scene was set for an interesting final quarter.
At the other end Brian Cahill missed out with a penalty chance but Dungannon backed themselves in an all out finish. Once close to the Bruff line a siege was laid and in those seemingly long seven minutes there were four scrums, six penalties plus two yellow cards for Bruff forwards and it all ended with referee, Gallagher awarding a penalty try.
McCloskey popped over the conversion and Dungannon’s mission was complete. Full marks to the home pack that showed remarkable character in the final showdown.
The win means Dungannon leapfrog Bruff in the league table just ahead of the second half of the league campaign.
Dungannon: Stuart McCluskey, Darren Simpson, Paul Magee, Glen Telford, David Egner, Jaryd Bennett, Jake Finlay, Glen Sinnamon, Phil Whyte, Mark Farquhar, Michael Dunleavy, Mark Jenkinson (capt), Derek Hall, Ali Birch, Tim Smith. Replacements: Sean Conway, Paul Jackson, Rowan Halsall, Steven Sinnamon, Stuart McKenzie.
Bruff: Andrew Breen, Mark Cosgrave, Brian Carroll, Owen Cahill, Paul O’Brien, Brian Cahill, Willie Casey, Dave Horan, Cathal O’Regan, Colm O’Sullivan, Mike McMahon, Maurice O’Connell (capt), Mike Carroll, Danny Keogh, Paddy Cleary. Replacements: John Hogan, Tim Quirke, Padraig Cleary, Eoghan Maher, Robbie Finn.
Referee: Sean Gallagher, IRFU