Saturdays game between Bruff and Dungannon 1st XV’s followed the traditional “Game of two halves” lines. Except maybe that three thirds might be more correct.
Bruff Started very strongly in this match. The Bruff pack dominated much of the earlier exchanges but when it came to the crunch, there was very little on offer when they came to the red zone. Bruff went first on the board opening their account with a Brian Cahill Penalty on five minutes. But time after time things just went against them when they had Dungannon on the rack. Indiscretions at the ruck gave Dungannon relief over and over and the much vaunted Bruff pack just could not win their own line-out. When their usually dominant scrum then started to be penalised time and again the Dungannon pack came back more and more into play. Of course, much like last season the stylish young Dungannon back line looked dangerous from all parts of the field and the Bruff defensive line was called into play constantly to defend the line. They finally cracked on twelve minutes when winger Chris Cochrane went over for his first try of the day following a strong break up the middle of the park and a couple of missed tackles by the Bruff back-line. Lawton missing the two pointer to give Dungannon a 5-3 lead. He made amends eight minutes later after Bruff were again pinged at the breakdown and slotted a penalty to extend their lead to five points. Bruff again defended gamely and managed to spend considerable periods in the Dungannon red zone but put themselves under pressure at line-out and with the referee on their backs constantly at scrum-time and at the breakdown the defensive lines cracked again in injury time to allow Prop Mark Farquhar to cross the whitewash and send them into the break with a ten point lead which they were well worth. HT score 13-3.
Half time break discussions obviously fired up the Bruff squad as when they came back onto the field we saw a return to more normal proceedings with the Bruff absolutely dominating the middle third of the match. Full back Brendan Deady crossed the line first five minutes in finishing a fantastic try which involved nearly the whole Bruff fifteen bringing them back within five point shouting distance. Bruff again dominated the re-start which they had done all day and charged into the Dungannon 22 again. And when Eoghan Maher crossed to touch down just right of the posts and Brian Cahill converted it looked like Bruff were staging the mother of all comebacks. Two points up with their tails in the air it was game on with a vengeance.
Dungannon however refused to allow their heads to drop and following a heated discussion behind the posts during the conversion, they managed to grind their way up the field again centre Paul McKenzie touching down on 58 minutes with Lawton finding his range eventually to give the a five point lead into the last quarter of the match. After this the Bruff squad seemed yet again to irk the referee however and following a flurry of offenses at the breakdown and at scrum-time yet again, Lawton extended the lead again ten minutes later courtesy of his boot.
When Winger Cochrane scored his second of the day on 74 minutes to give Dungannon the try bonus it was already a bridge too far for Bruff and they finished the game running out 28-15 losers. Dungannon have put themselves neatly into the fight for a playoff place sitting in fourth place with only two league points between themselves and league leaders Ballynahinch, while Bruff lie three points above UCC second from bottom with a five point difference between themselves and Galwegians who lie in next place above them. This brings an edge to next Saturdays game against the Cork students and is a must win game for both sides right at the halfway stage of the competition. Bruff must now park this first half of the league forget about it and concentrate on getting league points on the board from now on if they are to remain in the top tiers of the AIL at the end of the year.