Match Centre - February 15, 2020 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Old Belvedere
Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV

@ Ailesbury Grove

Match Details


A fifth Energia All-Ireland League defeat on the road saw Banbridge drop to fourth in Division 1B, with Shannon’s win at Old Wesley allowing the Limerick team to leap-frog Bann into third.

This game at Ollie Campbell Park was dominated by what Bann Coach Mark McDowell described as the wettest conditions he had seen a game played in for many seasons. Indeed the referee said after the match that he was almost calling a halt with 60 minutes played as large ponds of water had started to appear on the pitch.

It was a day when the team making fewest mistakes would claim the win. And on that basis Old Belvedere probably deserved to take the spoils, with Bann coughing up what McDowell admitted were two soft scores.

“The conditions forced us to play in a way that wasn’t our style,” said the Coach. “We’re using to playing at a quicker tempo and playing a bit wider and we weren’t able to do that today. But I thought the boys adapted quite well to the conditions they were faced with. But in heavy rain and high winds it was difficult to get anything going or get into any sort of phase play.

“We knew there’d be plenty of mistakes and the idea was to out-fight them and outwit them and I think for large periods of the game we managed to do that.”

Certainly Bann were in the driving seat in the opening quarter, with Bruce Houston just failing to master the wind with a penalty attempt in the 15th minute. But the visitors took a deserved lead just seven minutes later, working off a lineout close to the home line to put flanker Ryan Hughes in for a try that Houston bettered off the tee.

Having worked so hard to claim that lead, Bann then failed to claim the re-start, knocking on and then conceding a penalty for offside. The kick to touch gave the home side their first foothold of the game in Bann’s “22”, but they made it count as prop Ryan McMahon was driven over after his pack had gone through the phases off the lineout.

With half-time imminent, a miscommunication in the Bann ranks led a defender to carry over and touch down when he thought last play had been called. But the referee adjudicated that Bann should defend a 5-metre scrum and when it folded, he ran behind the posts to signal a penalty try.

“Those were two fairly cheap scores in my mind,“ said McDowell. “We worked so hard and played so well to get a try. Then that mishap off the re-start gave them an entry into our “22” for their first score and then that penalty try – both of those were utterly avoidable to be honest. We should have been walking in at half-time 7-0 up rather than 12-7 down. On a day like today, that’s a big lead.”

Belvo had the early pressure in the second half and picked up a third try with 50 minutes played, with their strong ball carriers eventually wearing down the Bann defence for flanker David St Ledger to claim the touchdown.

Ten minutes later Bann were back within striking distance, with one of very few multi-phase attacks of the afternoon rounded off by Peter Cromie’s clear run and touchdown under the posts, with Houston adding the extras.

Bann were now doing all the pressing and worked their way into strong attacking positions deep in the Belvo “22”, only to be foiled by a slippery ball forcing knock-ons at key times.

“We were planning in the second half that the wind would continue to be strong, but it seemed to die a little bit. Then Belvo scored a good try to get themselves 17-7. However Bruce was kicking us into good field position and when we got that second try I thought we would kick on and win it. But credit to Belvo – they defended for their lives in that final quarter.

“I’m immensely proud of the effort the boys put in out there in some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen. It certainly wasn’t through any lack of effort or desire to get the result – we just lacked a clinical edge at times.

“But we got a bonus point – it’s important we keep picking those up because the league is tightening up now with Naas winning at the weekend. At least we didn’t come away empty-handed.”

Bann’s next game is this Saturday, when St Mary’s visit Rifle Park. The Dublin side came out on top on a 16-10 scoreline in the game before Christmas. McDowell said that he was expecting another tough battle. “They’ve had a couple of results go against them and now they find themselves second bottom so that will certainly make them dangerous opponents.”

Bann team against Old Belvedere:- Adam Doherty, John Porter, Andrew Morrison, Josh Cromie, Hugo Harbinson, Bruce Houston, Neil Kilpatrick, Callum Reid, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie (Capt), Matthew Laird, Max Lyttle, Robin Sinton, Ryan Hughes, Greg Jones. Replacements:- John Wilson, Ross Haughey, Dale Carson, Jason Gribbon, Joe Finnegan.