Match Centre - November 24, 2018 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Ballynahinch RFC
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Ballynahinch - Mountview Rd

Match Details


Banbridge suffered a second successive defeat in their All-Ireland League campaign, with this single point reversal at neighbours Ballynahinch losing them further ground on pacesetters Malone, bonus point winners of their top-of–the-table clash with Naas.

The Rifle Park side might well look for comfort in a strong performance, especially in the second half when they dominated exchanges for long periods. But the fact remains that the home side took every opportunity to score that came their way while Bann came up short when it came to finishing off chances.

Assistant Coach Ian Porter described it as “one that got away”. “The game was fairly evenly contested,” he admitted afterwards. “But given the way they scored, such a soft try, we felt that we’d probably done enough to win the game. It just didn’t fall our way.”

An early lineout and maul, driven by the ‘Hinch pack close to the visitors’ line, suggested Bann might struggle up front. It eventually earned ‘Hinch a penalty which Peter Nelson slotted over for a three point lead. But the threatened forward domination by the home pack never materialised as the Bann eight was solid at set scrum and lineout where David McCann and Chris Allen did sterling work.

Indeed it was the Bann forwards who earned their side’s first try. Scrum-half Niall Armstrong had charged down an attempted clearance kick to win his side a five-metre scrum. Bann then went through a number of phases within metres of the try line before switching the focus of the attack to the left side where No 8 Stephen Irvine picked up from a ruck and dived over the line. Adam Doherty slotted over the conversion.

It took an inspired moment of play from ‘Hinch scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell to give his side the interval lead. The Bann defence had seemed capable of coping with anything that ‘Hinch could muster in attack. But picking up from a ruck outside the Bann”22” the lively pivot spotted a gap and darted in under the posts, leaving Nelson to add the extras.

Jonny McPhillips had taken over from Hilton Gibbons at half-time and the Ulster out-half kicked a 47thminute penalty to extend Hinch’s lead to six points. It was his side’s last contribution to the scoring but it was to prove sufficient to see them home.

Bann hit back immediately, laying prolonged siege to the home line. A couple of penalty opportunities were rejected in favour of the lineout option, but a ‘held-up-over the line’ was as close as Bann could get to making that spell of pressure count.

But the Bann threequarters were looking increasingly dangerous as the game progressed and the defence’s efforts to contain the Bann onslaught saw ‘Hinch No 8 Conal Boomer pick up a yellow card.

Bann’s second try was initiated by Doherty fielding a kick some 15 metres out from his own line. Nearly two minutes and 13 phases later hooker Peter Cromie broke out of Rory Butler’s tackle on halfway to feed Andrew Morrison on the “22” and the centre out-paced the cover to dive in at the right hand corner. A dislocated finger had taken Doherty out of the action earlier in the attack and it fell to replacement scrum-half Jonny Stewart to try to add the challenging conversion that would edge his side in front. His effort was short and wide, leaving Bann needing a score of any kind in the three minutes remaining.

They managed to manoeuvre their way back into home territory but a lineout that had worked so well all afternoon misfired when it really mattered and ‘Hinch were able to kick to touch to finish the game.

Porter wasn’t critical of the decisions to turn down those second half penalty chances. “You can look back and question those but at the same time if you’re not on the pitch you can’t be second-guessing the decisions. The guys on the pitch get a feel for how the game is going and the momentum of it. If you win the lineout and drive over everybody says ‘great call’. None of the kicks was a ‘gimme’ so the calls were probably justified.”

The coach was pleased that the lineout had gone so well. “We didn’t have all our front line jumpers out there so to take every lineout bar one against a side with so many big men said a lot for the work put in on the training pitch.”

And Porter was delighted with the performance of Ben Carson, with the centre having to field at blind-side flanker because of the unavailability through injury of so many players. “I thought Ben was outstanding for a guy making his first start at six. He didn’t look out of place at all. One of the big themes for the week was physicality and I thought Ben was probably one of the leaders in that, both in attack and defence. He didn’t shy away from any of it. That was one of the real positives from the game.

“And you could see why David McCann is involved with Ireland U-19s. For a guy just out of school he’s dominating most physical contacts – he has the skills and he reads the game pretty well. He’s still a bit raw but for an 18 year-old he’s a serious prospect. It’s great to have him”

This Saturday Malone travel to Rifle Park hoping to maintain their place at the top of the league. “We’ve played Malone a lot over the last few years, we’ve nearly mirrored each other through the leagues. After the Wesley game we were definitely very critical of our performance but the ‘Hinch game could have gone either way – two teams playing really well and very committed physically. We were pleased with how we performed – the result just didn’t go our way. So we’re very much looking forward to the Malone game.”

Ballynahinch became the first Ulster side to defeat Bann in an All-Ireland League game since 8thNovember 2014, when City of Derry edged out the Rifle Park team 26-23 in the Maiden City. After seeing that notable run come to an end Bann will be all the keener to get back to winning ways this Saturday and resume their challenge for the Division 1B league title.

Bann team v Ballynahinch:- Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little , Hugo Harbinson, Josh Cromie, Niall Armstrong, Michael Cromie (Capt), Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Chris Allen, Mike Bentley, Ben Carson, David McCann, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- Jonny Weir, Corrie Barrett, Robin Hewitt, Jonny Stewart, John Porter.