BANN THIRDS 17 COLERAINE SECONDS 0
Bann Thirds eased their way into the semi-final of the Crawford Cup without ever really playing to their full potential. Going into what was a league and cup double-header buoyed by their recent league form, Bann started off more positively in the opening phases of the game with some excellent lines of running from Geoff Thompson and his centre partner Willy Baird. The dominant performance from the home side owed much to the hard work at the set piece from Neil Walker, Gareth Briggs and Barney McKevitt who forced the Coleraine scrum backwards all afternoon.
This superior scrummaging resulted in an early penalty opportunity which Jeff Dodds narrowly missed. Turnover ball saw excellent crash running from Andy Davidson and Andy Brown which provided a platform deep in the Coleraine ‘22’. Some superb off-loading from McKevitt allowed Alan Thompson to throw the miss pass and put Shane Honeyford in for a try in the corner with Dodds adding the conversion.
Bann then regained possession from the restart to put the pressure immediately back on the visitors and with a penalty advantage Alan Thompson had an ambitious drop goal attempt from 40 metres out. From the resultant penalty Bann opted to kick to the corner for the lineout. An excellent drive from the pack created the platform for the threequarters to launch an attack which was carried into the Coleraine ‘22’ by lock Ross Semple. Some quick thinking from Dodds provided a pass on the narrow blindside to Alex Megaw who duly rounded the winger and ran under the posts for an easier conversion which Dodds converted.
Bann dealt with the following restart well and Alan Thompson put a great kick into space but the Coleraine fullback was able to make some great ground and slip a few tackles to bring possession deep into the Bann half. An excellent defensive effort from Chrissy Berry and Megaw allowed Stuart Marshall to effect an important turnover. Bann worked the ball up the pitch with a great half break by Geoff Thompson followed by strong carries by Briggs and Davidson resulting in a Bann penalty. With the penalty Bann opted to again go for the lineout and the forward drive resulted in Semple being held up over the line.
At half-time Banbridge brought Jonny Weir, Neil Cochrane and Richard McElroy into the fray to see if their fresh legs could add to the effort. Bann’s were unable to dominate the exchanges at the start of the second half and they spent a lot of the half seemingly happy to defend. An excellent tackle from John Ferris halted a dangerous Coleraine attack on the edge of his own ‘22’. From the lineout Bann started a maul which they were able to drive 40 metres before Coleraine illegally pulled it down. Bann kicked to the corner and tried to set up the same drive again but this time Coleraine did a good job of holding up the maul and forcing the turnover.
As Coleraine began to up the tempo the home back row of Weir, Neal Cochrane and Davidson were forced into defensive roles and Bann’s midfield had to be sharp to deny Coleraine on two occasions after they had put in testing grubbers. Bann were able to clear their lines through Ferris and the resultant kick chase from Honeyford put the Coleraine winger under serious pressure. Honeyford was able to pick up the fumbled ball and almost find a way to the corner only for an excellent cover tackle from the fullback. The resulting pressure from Bann at the lineout forced a penalty which Dodds duly converted.
Coach Andy Craig was full of praise for what he called “an all round team performance”. “It made it a difficult decision to pick a man of the match,” he added. “Davidson, Megaw, Weir and Brown had a great work rate around the park and Alan Thompson continues to show promise at his new out half position – that was his best performance yet. But (former 1st XV coach) Roy Stevenson named Jeff Dodds man of the match as he controlled the play throughout the game and showed his experience and I’ll go with that.”