CITY OF ARMAGH 34 BANBRIDGE 18
City of Armagh set themselves up for a SONI Ulster Premiership Division One decider against Malone with this comprehensive defeat of Banbridge at the Palace Grounds last Thursday evening.
In a game played at a frenetic pace throughout, the home side outscored the opposition by a 5-2 try count to pick up the bonus point that marks them out as favourites to retain the Stevenson Shield.
Armagh opened their account in the fifth minute, taking advantage of an overthrow at a Bann lineout to put full-back Timmy McNeice in for the first try. Out-half Cormac Fox kicked a fine conversion and added a penalty soon afterwards to put his side 10 points up.
Adam Doherty pulled back three points for the visitors and Bann should have added a try when Stephen Irvine was hauled down a metre short of the line but his off-load found its way into opposition hands.
Bann were now dominating possession and Doherty was again on target off the tee. But the visitors failed to take advantage of a 5-metre lineout, with the throw to the tail being taken by Armagh who were able to clear their lines.
It took a fine break from Andrew Morrison to create the visitors’ opening try. The centre’s 40 metre run was halted short of the line but out-half Jonny Little picked up from the tackle and forced his way over, with Doherty’s conversion putting the Rifle Park side 10-13 ahead.
That was to be Morrison’s last contribution to the game as he limped off with a hamstring injury, joined on the bench soon afterwards by winger Conor Field, suffering from the same complaint.
Bann’s lead was to prove short-lived as the impressive home No 8 Neil Faloon burst through the visitors’ lines for an unconverted try off the last move of the half.
Two minutes after the break the home pack drove over the Bann line from a close range lineout, with hooker Andrew Smyth effecting the touchdown and Fox adding the extras.
With Armagh now in control, the bonus point try followed soon afterwards, with winger Andrew Willis collecting Fox’s tidy grubber to race behind the posts for Fox to convert.
Replacement back Simon Lloyd gave Bann a glimmer of hope with his side’s second try which reduced the deficit to 29-18. But it was quickly extinguished as John Faloon scorched past a faltering Bann defence for the home team’s fifth try.
Armagh will retain the Stevenson Shield unless Malone register a bonus point win in the outstanding game between the two AIL Division 2A sides.
For Bann the challenge will be to pick themselves up after this disappointing reversal as they prepare for their trip to Naas this Saturday. They will hope to have Ulster A representatives Eric O’Sullivan, Caleb Montgomery and Greg Jones available for selection again, together with Ireland U-20 centre James Hume. But those hamstring injuries may well rule out Morrison and Field, and with captain Adam Ervine also doubtful, Bann’s threequarter resources could be stretched to the limit. However coach Daniel Soper will have been encouraged by the performance of David Lyttle, the RBAI out-half who came off the bench to make his senior debut and showed he has the ability to perform at this level.
Bann team v Armagh:- Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, John Porter, Robin Thompson, Jason Gribbon, Jonny Weir, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie , Chris Allen, Mike Bentley, Ryan Hughes, Robin Sinton, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- Andrew Jackson, Ross Haughey, Dale Carson, Simon Lloyd, David Lyttle.