Dungannon looked as though they had done just enough to see off Blackrock at Stevenson Park on Saturday but it all finished in heartbreak when Rob Keogh landed his third penalty on 78 minutes.
The home supporters were rightly disappointed and while their team thoroughly deserved the losing bonus point it could and should have been more. The result leaves Dungannon in the relegation zone on seven points with Ballymena propping up the table on two.
Blackrock kicked off with the sun on their backs and soon made inroads inside the Dungannon half. The home defence held firm but a penalty award allowed Keogh to strike from the tee and give the visitors a three point lead on five minutes.
Rock continued to hold territorial advantage but found it difficult going in the set scrums. At a turnover James McMahon lobbed the ball downfield before Rock responded with a ‘garryowen’.
Plunkett McCallan did well to field that and when play moved to the right flank Michael Dunleavy took the best lineout ball of the day before scrum-half, Sean Conway darted away some 30 metres to score in the corner on 17 minutes. Stuart McCloskey was unlucky to see his conversion attempt strike an upright and stay out.
However, the home supporters were delighted with the score and now a 5-3 lead. Rock bounced back and it took a timely ‘mark’ from Peter Cashel to clear the danger. At the ensuing lineout a rather strange penalty gave Keogh another chance from the tee and Blackrock went back in front midway through the half.
Three minutes later, good pressure from the Dungannon front row had the Rock pack in disarray once more before McCloskey missed out with a penalty chance. That said, the home pack kept the momentum going before a series of penalties put Rock back on the front foot.
Peter McCague took a good lineout ball ahead of a notable drive. All credit to the home defence it was thwarted and the half ended at 5-6.
Dungannon started the second half with good runs from Timmy Smith and McCloskey before a crossover offence denied Mark O’Shea. The home side held ground though and when the Rock scrum collapsed again, McCloskey put Dungannon back in front with a well struck penalty on 47 minutes.
Rock responded with long kicks into the Dungannon half leaving Jaryd Bennett to touch down for a drop out.
With defences at a premium and both sides hungry for league points the final quarter became a rather dour affair. Rock wisely held territorial advantage and when a penalty finally came their way lady luck shone on the Dubliners with Keogh dropping a long range effort just inches behind the cross bar on 78 minutes.
There was still time for Dungannon to get back in front but a 55 metre penalty from McCloskey fell short before Bennett screwed wide a hurried drop goal attempt.
At the final whistle Blackrock celebrated a narrow 9-8 win.
Dungannon: Mark O’Shea, Darren Simpson, Stuart McCloskey, Mark Faloon, Peter Cashel, Jaryd Bennett, Sean Conway, Steven Sinnamon, Phil Whyte, Glen Sinnamon, Plunkett McCallan, Michael Dunleavy, Derek Hall, Timmy Smith, James McMahon. Replacements: Richard Fletcher, Jeremy Turkington, Paul Jackson, Paul McCarroll, Mark Farquhar.
Blackrock: Mark Scott-Lennon, Tom Kevany, Michael McKeever, Rob Keogh, David Rowan, David Godfrey, Iizak Muller, David Lewis, Ryan Fisher, Colin Philips, Des Dillon, Owen Cullen, Michael Carroll, Peter Mccague, Job Langbroek. Replacements: James Mannion, Michael Carroll, Richard Liddy, Sam Cooke, David Scott-Lennon.
Referee: Brian O’Connell (IRFU)
Ballymena 24 Ballynahinch 43
Bruff 21 Harlequins 17
Dublin Uni. 36 UCD 14
Malone 12 Buccaneers 24