OMAGH SECONDS 17 BANN SECONDS 22
After the disappointment of their early exit from the Towns’ Cup, Bann Seconds were keen to get their season back on track. And with Conference League and Second Fifteen League points at stake in this double header, a win was all the more important.
They eventually battled their way through to success, having been made to fight the full 80 minutes against a combative Omagh side.
Coach Colin Bickerstaff was delighted with the way his young side had reacted following the previous week’s reversal at Limavady. “We needed a bit of a reaction after last week,” he said after the game. “And above all that’s what we got today. We pulled our socks up, got back to basics and I’m just pleased for the lads that they got the result their efforts deserved.”
Bann had to battle back from another poor start, with full-back Eoin Murnaghan’s unconverted try from the kick-off seeing the home side take a 5-0 lead.
Robin Thompson’s 17th minute penalty got Bann off the mark and two minutes later winger Jamie Ewing intercepted inside his own half and out-stripped the defence in a sprint to the try line, with Thompson’s conversion taking the scoreline to 5-10.
Eight minutes later Mike Bentley picked up from the base of a five metre scrum as his pack were nudging it towards the home line and the No 8 barged his way through to make the touchdown. Thompson’s fine conversion put a 12 point gap between the sides but for the remainder of the half possession was dominated by an Omagh side that tested Bann’s defence qualities to the limit.
With skipper Paul Ross setting a fine example, Andrew Jackson putting in a series of bone-jarring tackles and Bentley proving equally effective with and without the ball, Bann were able to maintain their two score lead until the break.
Playing up the slope in the second half the visitors came under immediate pressure, with a 42nd minute penalty attempt just drifting wide of their posts. Thompson’s break relieved the pressure briefly but his intercepted pass saw Omagh back in the Bann “22” and, from a set scrum, replacement back Ali Beckett sliced through the Bann midfield to dot down near the posts.
Just short of the hour the sides were level. Omagh took advantage of a lineout eight metres out to maul their way over the line, with hooker Philip Ewing adding the finishing touch and Adam Beattie’s conversion tying the scores.
The momentum seemed firmly with the home side as their vocal supporters urged them on to ‘finish the job’. But despite injuries forcing Bann to bring on Kris Campbell and Jeff Dodds as replacements for Ross Cartmill and Simon Lloyd, the visitors battled their way back into the game.
A couple of promising attacks were stymied by the concession of penalties inside the Omagh “22”. But with five minutes remaining strong carries by Alex Megaw and Josh Agnew allowed Bann to establish a foothold close to the home line and centre Ben Carson sidestepped through a gap to grab what proved to be the decisive score.
Bickerstaff said that the team had talked before the game about the need for a much better defensive display. “After that poor start when we conceded a soft try I thought our defence held up pretty well. They had us on the rack for long periods at the end of the first half but I think it said a lot for the guys’ attitude that we took that lead into the break.
“And we looked to be down and out when they fought back to level, especially when we picked up those injuries to key players. But Kris and Jeff came on and played their part and I think in the end we deserved the win.”
The coach singled out No 8 Bentley for special praise. “Mike was outstanding today – the best all-round performance I’ve seen him put in. And that was just his third game after a long lay-off, a well-deserved Man-of-the Match.”