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‘Gannon Strike Late For Derby Draw

‘Gannon Strike Late For Derby Draw

This ‘Friday Night Lights’ derby was a great advertisement for Ulster Bank League rugby with the result in doubt right until the final moments, as a last-gasp try from Mark O’Shea earned visitors Dungannon a share of the spoils.

It was a fair result in the end, but both of these Ulster clubs will be frustrated that they failed to go on and take full points in front of a passionate and vocal home crowd.

Dungannon had the better of the opening quarter, with the breeze behind them, yet they had to wait until the 21st minute to open the scoring through a penalty from winger Michael Lawton.

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Lawton and Ballynahinch out-half James Lash had missed earlier penalties and a fleet-footed break from 'Gannon scrum half Michael Kirkwood almost led to the opening try.

That came in the 25th minute when Rowan Halsall and James McMahon charged forward from deep, then full-back Conor Gaston made 30 metres on an excellent and he passed for prolific winger Chris Cochrane.

Cochrane was lined up by 'Hinch full-back David Nicholson but he had the pace to beat him and dash in by the posts for his ninth try of the league campaign. Lawton tagged on the conversion.

Four minutes later, Justin Fitzpatrick's men were over again. Derek Hall set the attack in motion, bringing play back into the hosts' 22 and a short few phases Stuart McCloskey passed for number 8 McMahon to rumble over for a seven-pointer.

'Hinch needed to respond before half-time and they succeeded in doing so, reducing the arrears to 17-7 following a Chris Napier try. Harry McAleese spotted the opportunity when taking a quick tap and Napier dived over with 'Gannon's Callum Threlfall in the sin-bin.

Lash added the extras having missed a second penalty just minutes earlier, and the County Down side maintained their momentum into the second half with a 42nd minute try from flanker James Simpson.

Simpson powered his way over following a close-in scrum, with 'Hinch holding an early territorial advantage. Lash missed the conversion before Threlfall returned to the action.

But the wind-backed table toppers had found their rhythm now and they hit the front after 63 minutes thanks to a Nicholson try. James Thompson provided the assist for the full-back, with Lash's successful kick opening up a two-point lead.

The New Zealander fired over a penalty two minutes later and there was a growing sense that five points might be enough for the win as the minutes ticked by.

However, Dungannon had other ideas and used turnover ball to attack through the strong-running Halsall. They won a penalty which was kicked into touch and after a good spell of continuity, Cochrane freed up replacement Mark O'Shea for a try in the corner.

With time almost up, the touchline conversion proved beyond Lawton's capabilities and an end-to-end encounter finished in a 22-22 draw.

Dungannon will be annoyed that they let 'Hinch overhaul their 17-0 lead, while that late lapse will haunt the home side, who have fallen to fourth place.

Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)