Clogher Valley Thirds 29 Bann Fourths 10
Bann Fourths travelled westward to Fivemiletown on Saturday looking to maintain the pressure on UUC at the top of the league table. They were under no illusions as to the size of the task facing them, knowing there’s no such thing as an easy match against the men from County Tyrone who typically field very different teams on home turf.
Fly-half Jack Myles got the game underway and the pack led the chase, stemming the initial flow from Clogher. However, it wasn’t long before Bann encountered the sheer power of Clogher’s main ball carriers. A combination of indiscipline, five weeks without competitive action and a compacted warm up meant that the away defence struggled to deal with them for much of the first half.
Before the half was over Bann found themselves 19-0 down. The performance of the front row, made up of the evergreen Gareth Briggs and the youthful Christian Trimble and Scott Buchanan, the latter making his first appearance in a Banbridge shirt, was one of the highlights as they had the better of their Clogher counterparts.
Strong words at half-time from the senior members of the squad, John Woods, Ross Semple and Gareth Briggs, breathed new life into the Bann men and they started brightly in the second half. They played a tight game, attacking with pace around the fringes as a tiring Clogher pack struggled to stem the flow.
Big carries from Jonny Murray, debutant Ryan Armstrong and Matty Bell saw Bann enter the Clogher half. Quick ball from scrum-half Kris Coleman gave Myles the opportunity to put in a cross field kick which Clogher struggled to deal with thanks to the great pressure applied by wing Grant Murphy. Lee Close pounced on the loose ball and showed some sublime soccer skills to cross for Bann’s first of the day and his first for the senior club.
This wakened the sleeping Clogher beast and the visitors once again found themselves under pressure in their own “22”. A much improved defensive display saw even the biggest ball carriers struggle to break through before Bann lost Myles to the sin bin. Clogher eventually made their way over to open up their lead once more, 24-5.
With little more than 20 minutes to go they added another to take the score to 29-5. Banbridge were now fast running out of time and hopes of a comeback were diminishing. Once again they resorted to their pick and go game with the ball rarely venturing outside the first receiver, and yet again it proved to be incredibly effective with PJ McNally making ground with several carries, ably supported by the rest of the pack.
In a great display of hands and footwork, Scott Thompson, Chris Patterson and Andrew Crory combined to make a half break and take the play back into the Clogher half. The introduction of John Woods for the injured Coleman saw an extra direct, ball-carrying threat entering the fray. After sustained pressure on the Clogher line Murray showed great strength to get over the line for the final score of the day.
Many of the lads put their hands up for man of the match, with strong second half performances across the park, but the award went to Murray who capped a great display of power, pace and sheer bloody-mindedness with a try.
The dejected Bann men headed back towards the changing rooms to dissect the happenings before turning their attention to Rory and the boys at Twickenham. As proud clubmen they would like to congratulate Rory on a tremendous achievement, and thank him and the boys for lifting the spirits sufficiently to ensure a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to Rifle Park, one filled with great craic and camaraderie amongst a great bunch of lads!