Match Centre - December 8, 2018 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

St. Marys College RFC
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ St. Marys College

Match Details

ST MARY’S   28      BANBRIDGE   7

Banbridge suffered their fourth defeat in eight All-Ireland League outings on an afternoon when the competitive nature of Division 1B was starkly underlined.

The teams which at the start of the day had occupied the top four positions all endured losses, while Bann’s conquerors, who had been beaten in two of their first three outings, moved from fifth to first thanks to this bonus point win.

Bann Coach was in no doubt as to the root cause of his team’s latest setback. “Our tackling was very poor,” said Simon McKinstry as he reflected on a disappointing performance. “St Mary’s are a good side but our defence wasn’t up to the usual standard and they took full advantage. They didn’t commit to the ruck, they fanned out and knocked us down and we missed a number of crucial tackles.”

A tap penalty enabled St Mary’s to capitalise on a ragged Bann defence and put Liam Curran in for an early score, which Conor Dean converted. Bann hit back but a lineout opportunity close to the home line was squandered and when ball was spilt in a tackle on the home “22”, the Dublin side countered to double their score. Right wing Hugo Conway made great ground and when the ball was recycled on the Bann “22” centre Myles Carey finished off under the posts.

McKinstry said that a 14-0 half-time scoreline would have kept his side within striking distance, but what he termed “really, really soft tackling” let Mary’s in for a third converted try before the interval. A Bann pass didn’t go to hand, Mary’s were able to off-load out of the tackles that did go in and Carey jinked his way to the posts from outside the “22”.

“We changed our tactics in the second half,” said McKinstry. “We went for pick-and-go and played a bit tighter and made ground out of that but the game was gone.”

Improved ball retention and patience through the phases enabled Bann to reduce the deficit, with Peter Cromie picking up his sixth try of the AIL campaign and Adam Doherty converting. But the second converted try which would have at least offered up a losing bonus point proved elusive and instead it was the home side who picked up the bonus, their fourth try coming off the last action of the game.

Flanker Ronan Watters, part of a very impressive back row, was heavily involved in a move that took play from one end of the pitch to the other and Conway applied the finishing touch for the bonus that took his side two points clear at the top of the table.

Was McKinstry able to take any positives from the performance? “We matched them up front – in the second half we matched them physically and adapted our game plan to suit. In the second half we were probably the better team.”

Bann host Armagh on Saturday in the closing game of the first half of scheduled fixtures in the AIL season. The Palace Grounds side climbed above Bann in the league table thanks to Saturday’s win over Naas and McKinstry knows that the Ulster rivals will present a very physical challenge. “Armagh will be as physical a team as we’ve played all season. If we don’t up our game defensively then we’ll come out on the wrong side, there’s no doubt. We’ll have to be at our best to beat them.”

Bann team v St Mary’s:- Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Ben Carson, John Porter, Jonny Little, Jonny Stewart, Michael Cromie (Capt), Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Chris Allen, Stephen Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, Ethan Harbinson, Greg Jones. Replacements:- Corrie Barrett, Ross Haughey, Matthew Laird, Niall Armstrong, Hugo Harbinson.