Match Centre - November 2, 2019 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV
Shannon RFC

@ Rifle Park

Match Details


Banbridge kick-started their Energia All-Ireland League season with a bonus point home win over Shannon.
Defeats in each of their first three games had left the Rifle Park side propping up Division 1B. And the odds were against them pulling off a win against a Shannon side that had two wins and a narrow defeat from their opening games.
But the home side were quickly out of the blocks, following up an early penalty and converted try with two more touchdowns to take a 24-0 lead into the break.
Coach Mark McDowell said that his main feeling after the game was one of relief. “It was just great to get that first win under our belts” he remarked. “There was no extra pressure after the defeats – I think there would have been if our performances in the previous three games hadn’t been good. But there were lots of reasons in those games to have the hope that when we started to click that it would all come together.
“We never spoke about this being a big game or one that we particularly needed to win. We just focussed on our own performance, making those minor little adjustments that we needed to make in order to get a more positive result.
“We gave the players a complete week off after the Malone game which I think re-energised them a bit and then we went hard at it in training this week. We knew that Shannon were travelling up on Saturday morning so it was very much in our thoughts to start quickly and hope that they would be slow getting the travel out of their system.”
Adam Doherty’s fifth minute penalty got Bann off the mark and ten minutes later they were ten points up, with Doherty converting after a Bann counter-attack off turnover ball saw Greg Jones finish off after Callum Reid’s 35 metre midfield charge and Jonny Stewart’s pop-up pass.
A Shannon lineout deep in Bann’s “22” had the Rifle Park side defending desperately but when the ball popped up from a tackle home out-half Josh Cromie snatched it out of the air and escaped the clutches of three Shannon players to take play to the visitors’ 10 metre line. The ball was transferred to the left flank where Doherty switched with Andrew Morrison to maintain continuity and from the ruck David O’Connor fed Stewart with the scoring pass. Doherty added the extras from the touchline.
Prop Reid grabbed the third try after Jones, Morrison and Michael Cromie had combined to put the loose head prop in at the posts.
“That 24-0 interval lead was probably better than I might have expected,” admitted McDowell. “I think it was obvious after the first ten minutes that we were causing them problems – frankly I think we could have had at least one other score. The key thing was we didn’t get bored of doing the basics well throughout the game.”
Shannon enjoyed their best spell in the third quarter, racking up tries from Jamie McGarry and Ronan Coffey, both converted by Billy Gray, to take them right back into contention at 24-14. And with the momentum seemingly swinging the Limerick side’s way there were some anxious moments among the home support before their team re-asserted themselves to put the result beyond doubt.
“Credit to Shannon, they came back at us pretty hard as we knew they would. When you’ve had such a good first half you almost don’t want half-time, you just want to keep playing – it halts your momentum a wee bit. They got back in our face and started to cause us a few problems.
“After they scored their first try we maybe started to push things a bit more than we had in the first half and as a result started to make a few errors. And that invited a bit more pressure on us.
“But we got back to the way we had been playing and got the fourth try. And then we didn’t ease off but kicked on to get the fifth.”
Ryan Hughes, who had an excellent game with major carries and fine work at the breakdown, linked with Jones to give the No8 his second try and Matthew Laird set up the ruck from which Morrison stepped inside two defenders to touch down.
McDowell recognised the contribution made by the contingent of Ulster players in his squad. “They’re all brilliant guys first and foremost who have fitted into the playing group really well – there are no airs and graces about them. John Andrew in his first game for the club was excellent. Jonny Stewart was very lively as well and Dave O’Connor grafted hard all afternoon. Callum Reid had a very good game and Greg Jones was outstanding, he just brought a calming leadership to the team.
“They were brilliant and add a huge amount but it’s great to see how our own club players step up their game when they’re playing in that company. That was Ryan Hughes’ best game of the season, it was good to see Peter Cromie back after his injury at Malone and also Stuart Cromie after a longer absence. Nobody had a bad game out there today – it was a team performance.”
Bann will hope to build on that when Naas visit Rifle Park this Saturday. The Kildare side has lost all four AIL games played this season but McDowell knows that will make them dangerous opponents. “We have a lot of respect for Naas but our challenge now is to back up and improve on that performance against Shannon.”
Bann team v Shannon:- Adam Doherty, Joe Finnegan, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Hugo Harbinson, Josh Cromie, Jonny Stewart, Callum Reid, John Andrew, Michael Cromie (Capt), Matthew Laird, David O’Connor, Robin Sinton, Ryan Hughes, Greg Jones. Replacements:- Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Stephen Irvine, Neil Kilpatrick, Ross Cartmill