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

All Ireland League 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV
Malone RFC

@ Rifle Park

Match Details

BANBRIDGE   16      MALONE   10

Banbridge picked up the win they needed to ensure a home draw in the promotion play-offs. But they had to battle for the full 80 minutes against a Malone side whose performance belied the fact that they had nothing to play for, given their mid-table position.

A score in the first two minutes gave the home side the start they needed, but coach Daniel Soper reflected after the game that it might in fact have worked against them. “Sometimes when you score early like that you take your foot off the gas and lose your concentration,” he said.

“The conditions weren’t conducive to great rugby but that’s not an excuse – we just didn’t play particularly well. The first half was pretty disappointing. Our kicking was poor and we didn’t exit out of our own area particularly well and put ourselves under a lot of pressure.

“In the second half we did what we had to do. We had the better of the territory and possession and I thought that the forwards worked very, very hard to get us the result. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.”

When Andrew Morrison sliced open Malone’s midfield defence to set up the 2nd minute unconverted try for John Porter it looked as if Bann might be set for a bonus point win. But the Belfast side came back strongly to set up camp in and around Bann’s “22”.

A neat chip behind the defence saw left winger Andy Bryans win the race to touch down for the equalising try in the 13th minute. And the same player intercepted when Bann were trying to play their way out of their own half, sprinting the 35 metres to claim his second unconverted try.

Bann rallied briefly towards the end of the half but were unable to capitalise on good field position and the visitors were good value for their 5-10 interval lead.

The home side held the upper hand for much of the second half. Ten minutes in Shandon Scott converted a penalty from in front of the posts after his pack had applied steady pressure on the visitors’ line.

Josh Cromie’s darting runs were testing the Malone defence to the limit and Bann were held up over the line to win a five metre scrum. Another penalty award was reversed on the intervention of the touch judge but when the clearance kick failed to make touch Bann resumed on the attack, winning a penalty for Scott to kick his side into a single point lead in the 64th minute.

Cromie’s neat inside pass took Chris Allen deep inside the Malone “22” and Dale Carson was held up over the line. But the pressure was unrelenting and from a five metre lineout the Bann forwards repeatedly thrust for the line with Carson eventually breaking through for the try that would take his side six points clear.

There were some nervous moments in the Bann ranks in the final minutes as Malone fought their way back into the home “22” but Bann held out to claim the all-important win.

Soper and his squad now prepare for the visit of UCC on 23rd April in the semi-final of the promotion play-offs. He emphasized how important Saturday’s win had been in securing the home draw. “Our home performances have been outstanding this year and we’ll take a lot of confidence from that. The results in the two games we’ve played against them have gone to the home side. But I know that UCC came to Rifle Park in January expecting to win and go top of the league and were very disappointed that they didn’t.

“We produced one of our best performances of the season that day and I know that we’ll have to do the same again if we’re to go on and contest the final.”

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