Match Centre - February 3, 2018 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV
Shannon RFC

@ Rifle Park

Match Details

BANBRIDGE   15      SHANNON   15

Banbridge clawed their way back into a game that looked lost to share the points with league leaders Shannon in the 13th outing of their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League campaign.

But Bann coach Daniel Soper considered it two points lost rather than two salvaged. “My initial thought at the end of the game was that we’d dropped two points,” he said reflecting on the match.

“We were better in so many areas and the way we finished the game in the last 10 minutes showed how good we can be – that we can unlock any team. So to be honest the feeling at the end was one of disappointment that we hadn’t finished it off.”

The Limerick side had travelled with a strong side including five of their Munster Academy players and in the opening quarter their impressive pack meant that Bann had to be at their defensive best to keep the visitors at bay.

When Bann broke out they won a penalty which Ian Porter dispatched to open the scoring but by half-time Shannon had the lead that their first half territorial advantage warranted, left winger Kieran Dunne taking advantage of an overlap to touch down out wide and Conor Fitzgerald converting.

Five minutes after the break the out-half slotted over a penalty to give his side a 3-10 lead. Strong carries by Chris Allen and Stephen Irvine put the home side in a strong attacking position with 65 minutes played. When Bann went down the narrow side off a ruck centre Andrew Morrison cut inside a defender and drew the last man to put skipper Adam Ervine in for a try that marked his return to action after a prolonged lay-off through injury.

One area of the game where the visitors had total control was the aerial battle, with their kick-and-chase invariably enabling them to retain possession. And it was from that tactic that they picked up the try that put them seven points ahead with some 12 minutes remaining, with replacement Dan Gavin charging through a defence that was in disarray.

“That was a pretty soft try,” said Soper, “They didn’t have to work for it and that was very disappointing. But it seemed to spark us into producing our best rugby of the game.”

The introduction of Robin Sinton off the home bench gave the home side options at the lineout, where they had struggled to win quality ball. Flanker Caleb Montgomery broke clear of a ruck to take play into the Shannon “22” and set up a period of intense pressure on the Shannon line. After thrusts from Morrison, Irvine and Peter Cromie had been held out, Bann won a five metre scrum. When it collapsed with Bann moving forward the referee awarded the penalty try which levelled the scores with three minutes remaining.

Those three minutes were played out in the visitors’ “22” with Bann going all out to secure the win. When they were penalised six metres out from the posts, Shannon decided to settle for the draw, kicking to touch to conclude hostilities.

“In some ways it was an excellent performance,” said Soper. “In the first half we were under an enormous amount of pressure. We defended for so long but only gave away one penalty and that was in the 35th minute. That’s something that we’ve really sorted out. Five penalties in the match is an excellent effort. Before Christmas we were going at 11, 12 sometimes 13 penalties a match. Now we’re down at six last week, five today, that’s something that everyone has bought into. If we’d been coughing up four or five penalties in the first half we’d probably have been too far behind to come back. So I’m really delighted with how the players have bought into that and they’ve shown great commitment to what we’re trying to do as a group.

“Unfortunately our lineout let us down and we dropped the ball more than we would normally do. So in spite of the good work we were doing defensively we were never able to put Shannon under any kind of pressure in the first half.

“They had a very good kicking game, they did it well, they backed it up with an outstanding chase and their aerial skills were superior.

“That’s something we’ll try to improve on. We’re doing lots of really good things, we’re learning all the time and it’s great that the players have stepped up to the level in this Division. We go to Ballynahinch in two weeks and hopefully we can back up the great result we got in October.”

The draw at Rifle Park meant that Ballynahinch’s win at Naas, courtesy of an 84th minute drop goal, allowed the Ballymacarn Park side (47 points) to displace Shannon (45 points) at the top of Division 1B, with Bann back in third on 41 points. That game at Ballynahinch on Saturday week will go a long way to determining the final placings.

Bann team v Shannon:- Adam Doherty, Adam Ervine (Capt), Andrew Morrison, Ben Carson, John Porter, Jonny Little, Ian Porter, Michael Cromie, Peter Cromie, Eric O’Sullivan, Chris Allen, Matthew Laird, Caleb Montgomery, Dale Carson, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- Jonny Weir, Stuart Cromie, Mike Bentley, Robin Sinton, Jason Gribbon.