Match Centre - December 2, 2017 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV
Dolphin RFC

@ Rifle Park

Match Details

BANBRIDGE   26      DOLPHIN   25

Playing against the side positioned at the bottom of Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League, Banbridge picked up the bonus point win their supporters expected. But it was a close call. Not the four-try bonus point – that was in the bag after 68 minutes play. But the four points for the win hung in the balance until the final whistle. And thanks to their second half fightback, Dolphin must now be installed as favourites when the sides meet again in Cork this Saturday.

Bann Coach Daniel Soper described it as his team’s worst display of the season. “That was as poor as we’ve been, probably worse than the Shannon performance,” was his blunt comment afterwards.

“We were just fortunate to have been so clinical on a couple of counterattacks.  But we made a couple of poor decisions and let them back into the game and that was disappointing.”

This was the third consecutive Bann game to be decided by a single point, with the dice rolling in the Rifle Park side’s favour in two of them, the two in which they had home advantage

Yet again Bann got off to a flyer, with Caleb Montgomery’s pick-up and searing 40 metre run from a ruck setting up Rob Lyttle for a 3rd minute try off Ian Porter’s floated pass. The Bann pivot knocked over a fine conversion from the touchline, the significance of it only becoming evident later in the game.

Bann went on to construct a 19-6 interval lead and seemingly set themselves up for a facile victory.

A period of encampment inside the Dolphin “22” culminated in Andrew Morrison taking Porter’s flat pass off a ruck and sauntering through a gap to touch down under the posts.

Then just short of the interval Jonny Little fielded his own throw-in on the home “22” and found Lyttle with a long pass. The winger side-stepped out of the first-up tackle  before linking with Peter Cromie, with the hooker setting off on a blistering 65 metre run that ended with him being hauled down just short of the try line. But Lyttle was there in support to pick up and dot down at the corner flag.

Dolphin had by that time managed to convert two penalty chances courtesy of the boot of out-half Barry Keeshan, but at the midway stage of the game they appeared to offer little more threat than their league position suggested they might.

All that changed when hostilities resumed as their robust pack began to play to their strengths.  By the 58th minute the scoreline read 19-18, after Dolphin had muscled their way to two tries, with their driving maul and controlled pick-and-go setting up scores for prop James Rochford and lock Dave O’Mahony.

Bann struck back off turnover ball from inside their own 10 metre line, with the Lyttle-Morrison combo carving open the Cork side’s defence for the latter to complete his brace. Porter’s conversion gave his side an eight point cushion and it proved to be a buffer they needed as Rochford’s second try in the 73rd minute and Keeshan’s conversion produced another traumatic finish for the home fans.

Soper was complimentary about the Dolphin performance.  “They had a lot of fire about them and they certainly showed a lot of fight to come back in the end.

“In the AIL you never expect an easy game and at the halfway stage of this season it’s clear that there’s nothing between any of the teams.

“We’ve a few things to address before next weekend. We need to get a reaction from the players – I know some of them will be pretty disappointed when they watch the video of that game. Some of the fault lies with individual standards and some of it is organisational stuff and those are things we need to address. We’re going to need to be much improved when we go to Cork.”

Bann team v Dolphin:- Adam Doherty, John Porter, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Rob Lyttle, Josh Cromie, Ian Porter (Capt), Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Tom O’Toole, Chris Allen, Matthew Laird, Caleb Montgomery, Robin Sinton, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- Jonny Weir, Michael Cromie, Richard Graham, Ben Carson, Ross Cartmill.