BANN THIRDS 10 ARDS SECONDS 23
Banbridge Thirds fielded a much-changed side from the team that had contested the Crawford Cup final for this Junior League game on Saturday.
The home side looked much the better side in the opening exchanges and quickly registered two tries for an early lead. No8 Matthew Bird broke off the base of a scrum to feed Jeff Dodds and the scrum-half made good ground before putting winger Kyle McConnell in for the first try.
Then Bann showed their set piece strength as they drove Ards back at a five-metre scrum for Bird to effect the touchdown. Neither try was converted but Bann were looking good for the win in what was a double-header.
However Ards had been first to score, with their out-half slotting over a penalty after Bann had infringed at a ruck, with that establishing a pattern which was ultimately to undermine all the home side’s good work.
Chris Berry laid the groundwork for what would have been a third try for his side when he collected a clearance kick inside his own half and set off on a weaving run before putting Dodds in the clear. The scrum-half’s run took play to the Ards’ “22” but McConnell was unable to pick up his grubber kick behind the last defender and Ards were able to hold out.
Bann were paying a heavy price for falling foul of the referee, with two further penalties off the prodigious boot of the Ards No 10 reducing the half-time differential to a single point.
The Ards line again came under pressure at the start of the second period. But just when it seemed that a third score was inevitable, Bann were penalised, Ards took a quick penalty and their centre set off on a scorching run which took him the 85 metres to the posts.
The conversion was added but two more penalty attempts drifted wide. Bann took a short drop-out following the second of these but a knock-on gave Ards possession and they went through a couple of phases before crossing for the clinching converted try.
Coach Andrew Craig could hardly hide his disappointment at what he called his side’s inept display. “That’s a game we should clearly have won,” he said. “But our decision-making was poor and our discipline atrocious. We were fortunate to just incur one yellow card – the lads will have to learn to accept the match official’s decisions.
“On the plus side I was pleased with the performances of the two Academy players, Jonny Campbell and Michael McGaffin. They both worked hard especially Jonny at flanker. Michael didn’t see as much of the ball but he still showed up well when he got the chance.”