RAINEY SECONDS 29 BANN THIRDS 17
Bann Thirds travelled to Magherafelt where they knew they would face a strong challenge against Rainey Old Boys 2nd XV. The late arrival of many Banbridge players meant a reduced warm up with some new players only getting a few short minutes to run through set piece plays.
The lack of a warm-up didn’t show in the opening minutes of the game when Banbridge were not afraid to take the game to Rainey, targeting them around the fringes with strong blistering runs from Matthew Shirlow and Alex Megaw who continued to make yards. As Bann edged down the pitch it was their own indiscipline that cost them as they gave away a penalty at the breakdown which allowed the pressure to be relieved from Rainey. From the resultant lineout Rainey showed exactly why they will be title contenders as they moved the ball around. Even with the strong tackling from the centre pairing of Willy Taylor and Peter Irvine and the persistence of Chris Berry they managed to find an overlap which they exploited to score the opening try, which was converted.
Bann re-started and thanks to the hard work of Jack Macauley and Mark Magowan they forced a turnover. Stephen Cowan continued to link well with the backs and forwards alike and a half break from Chris Beacom took him deep into Rainey’s half but a resultant offload did not go to hand which provided Rainey with a defensive scrum deep in their own “22”. Bann’s indiscipline at the scrum gave Rainey a penalty to relieve the pressure.
From the resultant line out Rainey again showed their capabilities as a set piece play created a mismatch in the midfield. The Rainey player found space only for a great defensive tackle from Jordy Mount to stop him in his tracks, but he managed to get the off-load away and Rainey were able to run under the posts for a 14-0 lead.
With his first touch of the ball Calum Boland ran an excellent line, making another half break before great support play from Nelson Shanks took play further down the pitch but more excellent defensive play from Rainey forced a turnover. As half-time neared Rainey’s strong running from their pack kept pushing Bann deeper into their own “22”. Despite some frantic defensive play from Jonny McCreery and Stuart Marshall, the visitors were unable to hold out the continuing attacks as Rainey rumbled over the line for a third try and a 19-0 interval lead.
Bann’s half-time discussion was based around discipline and being more clinical with the ball and the need to get the next score, but unfortunately it was Rainey who came out of the blocks quicker and forced their way over for another try to leave the score 24-0.
The game now looked out of Bann’s reach and with pride at stake they started to play with the vigour and enthusiasm shown in the opening minutes of the game. The Rainey penalty count began to rise and Cowan continued to punish them by pushing them deep into their own “22”. The Bann pack, even with limited time to perfect their lineout, began to walk the big Rainey pack down the pitch. Eventually these lineout drives got their reward as Gareth Briggs steered the maul over the line to for his side’s opening score.
A few minutes later in a near carbon copy move Cowan found the touch line and from the resultant lineout Briggs again forced the ball over the line. This time Cowan converted for a 24-12 scoreline. Unfortunately a short time later Bann missed touch from a penalty, Rainey were able to field the ball and their out-half put a crossfield kick to the winger. Pressure from Ben Cross meant the winger could not catch the ball but he was able to hack it on down the pitch for 40 metres to beat the scramble defence for an unconverted try.
With time running out Bann continued to press for another score and another bit of indiscipline from Rainey gave Cowan another opportunity to punish Rainey by forcing them back into the corner. Another great take from Macauley and the maul was set up and again the experienced Briggs marshalled the maul and drove it over the Rainey line to conclude the scoring.
Bann showed what they are capable of for large parts of the game against an AIL club’s Second XV but they need to maintain focus for the whole 80 minutes. Man of the match was a difficult decision with players like Taylor and Irvine stepping up defensively and Macauley and Megaw putting in the hard work at the breakdown, but in the end it was awarded to Gareth Briggs who scored his first ever hat-trick.