Match Centre - September 26, 2015 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Thomond RFC
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Liam Fitzgerald Park

Match Details

THOMOND   22      BANBRIDGE   21

By the end of the third round of All-Ireland League games played on Saturday, Banbridge were sitting on top of Division 2A. But you wouldn’t have known it judging by the faces of the Bann players getting onto the team coach to head up north from Limerick.

They had just had a third straight victory snatched from their grasp by Thomond’s injury time drop goal. The losing bonus point managed to edge them to the top of the Division on points difference but in the words of Assistant Coach Simon Best, the squad and management were “pretty gutted”.

“Maybe it was a bit of inexperience or naivety,” he said, “but I thought we had worked hard enough to win it. Thomond put a lot into the first 20 minutes while we looked a bit sluggish.

“But we got a foothold at the start of the second half and battled back to take the lead with five minutes left on the clock. But we couldn’t close it out and the experience of their replacement out-half Fiach O’Loughlan showed as he coolly slotted over that winning drop kick.”

That sluggish start saw Bann concede a try in the second minute, with Eoin O’Carroll’s touchdown converted by John Lillis. It took Bann 26 minutes to respond, with centre Jonny Little crossing for an unconverted try after a period of pressure on the home line.

Bann resumed on the attack from the re-start and after Thomond prop Donal Murphy had been sin-binned, Lee Steenson slotted home the penalty to give his side a single point lead.

But by the interval Thomond were in front again with a knock-on in Bann’s “22” setting up the chance for skipper Wayne Mullaney to cross at the posts, with Lillis adding the extras.

Little’s break early in the second half led to another penalty opportunity for Steenson but the scrum-half’s effort came off the upright and Bann knocked on in the in-goal area. Steenson found the target off the tee in the 5oth minute and followed that up with a fine break which led to a try for prop Stuart Cromie which he converted for a 14-18 lead.

As Bann’s penalty count mounted Thomond took advantage to put full-back Jamie McGarry in for a 68th minute try which edged his side 19-18 in front.

Bann’s superior scrummaging earned another penalty opportunity for Steenson and the pivot’s kick re-gained the lead with three minutes of normal time remaining. But Thomond had the last word with that effort off the boot of O’Loughlan, to leave the Rifle Park side with a solitary point for their efforts.

“They were two soft tries we conceded,” said Best. “And it’s disappointing because we don’t feel that we were beaten by a better side. But respect to Thomond, they took their chances when they came and stuck at it until the final whistle.”

Next up for Bann are Nenagh, who played their first AIL game of the season on Saturday and produced an impressive performance to topple hitherto league leaders Queen’s on a 36-13 scoreline.

Best said Bann had to be wary of the Tipperary visitors after that result. “Nenagh won’t be an easy game for us but then I don’t think that any of the games are going to be easy in this league. I think it will be a tight league right to the end. We don’t know much about Nenagh but I do know that we’ll have to be a lot sharper than we were on Saturday.

“We’d targeted 14 points from our first four games, so a win this Saturday will get us there. But we know we’ll have to work very hard for that.”

Bann team v Corinthians:- Adam Ervine, John Porter, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Clark McAllister, Shandon Scott, Lee Steenson, Stuart Cromie, Peter Cromie, James McCrum, Chris Allen, Kallan Martin, Mike Bentley, Stephen Irvine, Jonny Graham (Capt). Replacements:- Fraser Mulholland, Thomas Carlisle, Richard Graham, Ethan Harbinson, Miles O’Hagan.

Richard Graham← Kallan Martin
Tom Carlise← Stuart Cromie
Fraser Mulholland← Peter Cromie
Ethan Harbinson← Michael Bentley
Miles O’Hagan← Adam Ervine