Match Centre - April 7, 2018 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

University College Cork
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Mardyke Grounds

Match Details

UCC   32      BANBRIDGE   31

A poor first half performance left Banbridge with just too much to do to pick up the win that would have taken them to the top of Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.

Coach Daniel Soper said that the team’s disappointment at losing was compounded when news came through of the results at Old Belvedere and Old Wesley. “Those results went the way we needed them to, with Shannon failing to pick up a bonus point and Ballynahinch only managing a draw at Wesley,” he said, reflecting on a game that his side came so close to edging.

UCC dominated for much of the first half against a Bann side that Soper admitted was very slow out of the blocks. “Our warm-up seemed a bit flat for some reason. It’s hard to work out why that happens – it’s one of the mysteries. But it was certainly a disappointing first half.”

Out-half James Taylor kicked his side into a three point lead in the opening minutes and added the conversion to Paul Kiernan’s 10thminute try after a grubber kick had bounced kindly for the attacking side.

Adam Doherty’s successful penalty shot got Bann onto the scoreboard, but play was soon back at the opposite end of the pitch where Andrew Morrison’s efforts to halt a UCC attack earned the centre a yellow card. Bann managed to turn over the five metre lineout but when UCC countered off the clearance kick the visitors were penalised again. The 10 metre extra advantage awarded for back-chat simplified Taylor’s shot at goal and he duly obliged.

By the 25thminute the students were 20-3 up, after their one-man advantage had created the overlap for winger Cian Bohane to cross in the corner, with Taylor striking a fine conversion.

Half-time was approaching when Bann grabbed their first try, with James Hume going over in the left hand corner and Doherty finding the target off the tee for a 20-10 scoreline. But before the break the gap between the sides had been extended to 15 points, with a missed tackle letting UCC winger Murray Linn in for his side’s third try, which went unconverted.

After such a lethargic first half display, Bann came alive at the start of the second period, running in two tries in the opening 10 minutes, both superbly converted by Doherty, to reduce the deficit to a single point. First Conor Field went over in the right hand corner after Bann had pressured the defence into conceding a lineout. And then Morrison crossed after Nick Hayes and Caleb Montgomery had done the spadework.

UCC earned themselves a bonus point on the hour thanks to their fourth try, from flanker John Hodnett, converted by Taylor. There were still some nine minutes left on the clock when Hayes went in at the posts for Bann’s fourth try, aided and abetted by Stephen Irvine, and Doherty’s conversion left a single point between the sides.

And Bann had a gilt-edged chance to claim the win when Doherty kicked to win a five-metre lineout. But an accidental off-side at the ensuing maul scuppered that opportunity and the students saw out the time remaining.

“We did well to get back into it given that we were down as much as we were,” said Soper. “But we should have done better in those last eight or nine minutes. We had that lineout we didn’t take advantage of, we conceded a couple of penalties and we didn’t hang onto the ball.”

The final round of games sees all three challengers for the league title at home. Leaders Shannon play UCC, Old Belvedere travel to Ballynahinch and Bann host a UL Bohemians side which will be desperate for the points they need to avoid a relegation play-off. If Bann can’t improve on their current third place then they’ll be travelling to either Shannon or Ballynahinch in the play-offs.

“I think it would take a miracle for Shannon and Ballynahinch both to drop points this weekend,” was Soper’s assessment. “We have a very difficult game against Bohs and it’s important that we improve on some of the things we didn’t do well against UCC. What we don’t want is to go into a play-off on the back of two defeats. We need to get some momentum back but it’s going to be pretty tough.”

Unfortunately Bann will have to field without Doherty, whose excellent kicking did so much to keep them within striking distance of UCC on Saturday. “Adam broke his hand in the first minute of the game but played on. So he’s out for the rest of the season. We started off the season with Ian Porter as our first-choice kicker and when he was injured Adam stepped up and he has done superbly. So it’s a big blow, not just because of Adam’s kicking, but what he brings to our attack. So we’ll have to look at our options there.”

Bann team v UCC:- Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Adam Ervine (Capt), , Jonny Little, Jason Gribbon, Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Stephen Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, Nic Hayes, Greg Jones. Replacements:- Ross Haughey, Stuart Cromie, Mike Bentley, Neil Kilpatrick, John Porter.