BANN FOURTHS 43 ACADEMY SECONDS 28
With the previous away fixture between these two teams played in atrocious conditions before eventually being abandoned at 0-0, the home team were well aware the reverse fixture was going to be an equally tight affair at the top of the league table.
Played in blustery damp conditions, the opening exchanges could be described as a tussle between two heavyweights probing for weaknesses. It was the much more youthful Bann side who settled the better, with backs and forwards combining well producing quick ball which was whipped out quickly. Keir Patterson used his speed and skill to find a gap and race in from 40 metres out for the opening score with the extras added by Phillip Morrison.
This gave Bann much-needed encouragement and when Academy infringed Morrison found a great touch inside the opposition ‘22’. Both Timmy Sinton, who was making his first start for the Fourths this season, and Jonny Sleator had been securing a fair share of their ball in the lineouts. From the resulting catch and drive, winger Jack Myles, who had decided to use his bulk to assist the forward momentum, managed to touch down for an unconverted try.
At 12-0 Bann took their foot off the pedal and the drop in intensity led to an Academy converted score. This gave Bann the shake-up needed and they raised their game again, forcing play back down into the Academy ‘22’. The Bann maul again proved unstoppable and this time flanker Jonny Campbell provided the finishing touch with Morrison’s conversion taking the score to 19-7.
Realising Bann needed to maintain their intensity from the re-start Captain Mark Magowan led by example, catching the drop-out and with a good clean out from the forwards, Jeff Dodds put in a huge box kick which was well chased by the team. Campbell’s pressure forced a turnover and quick recycled ball and slick hands from Sam Boyd via Magowan to Ryan Armstrong gave the winger the space to sprint in from 30 metres out. Again complacency set in and Academy were allowed to score through missed tackles.
This led to a period of tit for tat scores between the teams. The Bann front row of Kris Campbell, Dave Neill and Barney McKevitt was applying great pressure in the scrums, supported in the open play with hard graft by Michael McKee and Jonny Murray. This was supplemented by the silky play in the backs with Ross Davis and Patterson creating space, leading to a try from full-back Jordan Mullan off a neat dummy.
Unfortunately Academy were allowed to respond in kind shortly after. This was making the game closer than it needed to be but Bann stuck to their task and some rolling substitutions freshened things up. Patterson showed his skill yet again with a mazy run from 35 metres out to score. The highlight of the day for the spectators was Jack Myles (the lightest player in the team) bouncing a far heavier opponent out of the way on a run. The ball was recycled well with a mixture of forwards and backs getting involved where necessary hitting rucks or passing out the back line, as if playing without numbers on their backs. From this pressure Patterson picked up his hat-trick, barging through five defenders from 15 metres out to score. With two minutes left to play tiredness set in and a drop in concentration and intensity let Academy in to secure their fourth try for a bonus point.
This was disappointing after a very impressive display. It also gives the players a reality check that even with the next three weeks off, training is required to improve. It has also made selection really hard for management as lots of players are putting their hands up. The supporters who braved the weather to watch them were treated to a festival of try scoring. Thanks must go to the referee and players who dealt with the conditions to put on such a display.