Match Centre - January 30, 2016 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Naas RFC
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Forenaughts

Match Details

NAAS   16      BANBRIDGE   5

A below-par performance saw Banbridge lose out to their nearest rivals, Naas, in the race for first spot and automatic promotion from Division 2A of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.

Coach Daniel Soper admitted afterwards that his team had made too many unforced errors. “We didn’t play particularly well,” he said. “We kicked poorly, tackled high and the penalty count went heavily against us. In the home game against Naas we tackled low. This time for some reason we kept going in high and paid the price.

“In the second half we’d build up momentum and then lose the ball through an overthrow or crooked lineout or miss a shot at goal – we just kept letting them off the hook.”

Bann knew they were in for a tough game against the Co Kildare side and so it proved, although in the final analysis the teams scored one try apiece, with the boot of home scrum half Peter Osborne making up the eleven points differential between the teams.

With so much at stake it was perhaps not surprising that aggressive defending from both teams forced a series of knock-ons in the opening quarter of the game. Lee Steenson was one Bann player who couldn’t be criticised for tackling high, with one ferocious lunge at the ankles taking out Paul Tolofua in his tracks when the Naas No8 was at full speed, but Bann conceded a penalty at the next breakdown and Osborne slotted over the first of his three penalties.

Mike Bentley’s run down the left flank took play into the home “22” but Bann were unable to capitalise on the good field position and Naas cleared the danger.

With Steenson forced to retire from the action in the 33rd minute, at the next scrum the ball squirted out on the visitors’ “22” and Naas scrum-half Osborne was quickest to react, picking up and weaving and dodging his way under the posts before adding the conversion.

Bann had opportunities from two five metre lineouts late in the first half but the Naas defence held firm for a 10-0 interval lead.

Adam Doherty’s two shots at goal soon after the re-start failed to find the target and when Bann failed to find touch from a penalty inside their own half, Naas ran the ball back to win another penalty which Osborne landed to put 13 points between the sides.

With five minutes left Doherty ran ball back after fielding on halfway. He was halted temporarily but regained his footing to set up ruck ball inside the Naas “22”. Two phases later and the ball was moved through the hands to Peter Cromie who made good ground before drawing the last defender to put Andrew Morrison in at the corner.

The failed conversion attempt left Bann needing a score of some description to salvage at least a losing bonus point. A penalty would have done but when the re-start was knocked on, it was Naas who won the penalty at the other end which Osborne converted, effectively putting an end to Bann’s hopes.

It was the first game of the season which Bann had come away from pointless, but Soper had no concerns about any negative impact the result might have on his squad’s confidence. “We knew it would be tough today but it was the manner of our defeat that was the most disappointing. But we’ve lost before this season and bounced back. I know this will make the lads more determined to put things right in the next game against Skerries.

We’re still top of the league so the final outcome is still in our own hands. That’s the way we want to keep it.”

Bann’s team against Naas:- Adam Doherty, John Porter, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Adam Ervine (Capt), Shandon Scott, Lee Steenson, Stuart Cromie, Peter Cromie, James McCrum, Chris Allen, Kallan Martin, Mike Bentley, Dale Carson, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- Fraser Mulholland, Colin Bickerstaff, Robin Sinton, Josh Cromie, Clark McAllister.

Josh Cromie← Lee Steenson
Fraser Mulholland← Peter Cromie
Colin Bickerstaff← James McCrum
Robin Sinton← Christopher Allen
Clark McAllister← John Porter