BANN FIFTHS 18 BHSFP SECONDS 13
Bann Fifths were out of the blocks quickly in this Butler Shield semi-final game played in good conditions at Rifle Park.
Their strong running forwards had them on the front foot and Barney McKevitt’s 30 metre break almost created a score for young centre Jamie Mullan, who was playing on the Fifths for the first time alongside brother Jordan at full-back.
With the home side continuing in the ascendancy, Francois Viljoen’s long penalty gave his side a five metre attacking lineout. A great take and drive was rounded off by skipper Paul Cairns, whose touchdown was converted by Jordan Mullan.
Indiscipline in the High School ranks was duly punished by the boot of Mullan, whose two penalties stretched the lead to 13-0. However the visitors struck back quickly from the second re-start, running in and converting a try to pull them right back into the game.
Bann spent the 10 minutes that remained in the first half in and around the High School five metre line, but despite the best efforts of the pack and No 8 Andy Brown in particular they were unable to add to their tally before the interval.
The second half exchanges became increasingly physical but Bann matched everything thrown at them. Up-front Nathan Martin and Tim Sinton carried well throughout and the strong-tackling centre partnership of Niall McAlinden and Jamie Mullan halted promising attacks on a number of occasions.
An unconverted try from Ben Cross put his side 18-7 ahead but as the penalty count shot up in the final quarter High School clawed their way back into contention, their two converted shots at goal taking them within five points of Bann’s tally.
A series of penalties saw play move back into the visitors’ “22” where it remained for the last five minutes, with Bann retaining possession to deny the opposition any chance of a late comeback.
This sixth win in a row for the Fifths has earned them their place in the final of the Butler Shield on Saturday 7th April, when Ards Thirds will provide the opposition at the neutral venue of Ballymacarn Park.