Match Centre - January 11, 2020 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Armagh RFC
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Palace Grounds

Match Details


Armagh may not have fully avenged the 43-18 drubbing inflicted on them four weeks ago at Rifle Park, but they certainly regained a lot of pride and more importantly picked up four invaluable points from this narrow home win over Bann.

Bann Coach Mark McDowell said after the game that his over-riding emotion was frustration. “Let’s take nothing away from Armagh,” he commented. “Congratulations to them on the win. They’ve avenged that defeat at Rifle Park before Christmas. They were effective at stopping us from doing what we wanted to do at times.

“However I can’t help but feel that quite a few of the issues we were having were self-inflicted. We had real issues around ball security through a combination of Armagh’s pressure and also through our own inaccuracy. Our set piece struggled, certainly at scrum time and also at times at the lineout. That really prevented us from getting a foothold in the game.”

Although Bann threatened early on, with Andrew Morrison and Ryan Hughes prominent, Armagh scrambled well to relieve the pressure. And with both sides conceding more penalties than they would have wished, with half-time approaching there was little sign of either breaking the deadlock.

Then in an eight minute period before the break, Armagh struck twice. With the referee playing advantage, a grubber kick in behind the visitors’ ranks appeared to be going dead. But Armagh centre Shea O’Brien refused to recognise a ‘lost cause’, snatching the ball and touching down as he demolished the corner flag post. Cormac Fox struck an excellent conversion from the narrowest of angles and his side was up and running.

Armagh had been denied a try over some illegality as they drove a maul from a lineout over the Bann line. But when a second opportunity presented itself after Bann had been penalised outside their “22”, another concerted drive off the 5-metre lineout was finished off by hooker Andrew Smyth, with Fox’s effort off the tee drifting wide.

In the earlier fixture at Rifle Park Armagh had taken a 10-18 lead into the break, only to concede five tries in the second half without adding to their own score. This time they started the second half with a 12 point cushion but again failed to add to their tally in the second period of Saturday’s game. But their clear focus and on keeping Bann pinned in their own half for long periods proved crucial on this occasion, as the visitors were unable to build up any momentum until the closing stages.

Armagh had the chance to put clear water between themselves and the visitors. But an early penalty opportunity, which would have left Bann needing three scores in the 30 minutes remaining, was rejected in favour of a kick to the corner, with a crooked throw allowing Bann to kick clear.

There were some 15 minutes left when Bann’s driving maul off a lineout yielded an unconverted try for Peter Cromie.  And as Bann at last began to enjoy extended time in the home “22”, further scoring opportunities presented themselves as Armagh clung on grimly. But cling on they did, to grab the four points that didn’t lift them out of eighth position in the league, but which could well prove crucial in keeping them out of play-off territory at the end of the season.

“We didn’t have many attacking opportunities until the last 20 minutes of the game,” said McDowell. “It’s a game that definitely got away. Apart from that 10 minute stretch when Armagh got their 12 points I thought we were pretty comfortable in defence. We had been managing the game quite well and then they hit us with those two scores.

“After that they were very effective in keeping us in our own “22” for large periods of the second half, which is credit to them. We worked hard to get out and then inaccuracy meant they turned the ball over and we were on the back foot again. They had a pretty effective game plan in the second half, making us chase the game from our own line.

“We lacked sharpness and that’s something we’re going to have to get back over the next couple of weeks. We pride ourselves on our accuracy and unfortunately we didn’t show that today. There’s no cause for drastic concern. A lot of the problems were self-inflicted and I think those are the things that are easiest to fix. But Navan are next up on the 25th January and they’re in desperate need of a win, so that’s going to be another big challenge.”

Bann team v City of Armagh:- Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Josh Cromie, John Porter, Bruce Houston, Neil Kilpatrick, Callum Reid, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Matthew Laird, Max Lyttle, Robin Sinton, Ryan Hughes, David O’Connor. Replacements:- John Wilson, Ross Haughey, Dale Carson, Jason Gribbon, Hugo Harbinson.