Match Centre - February 22, 2020 - 2:30 pm

All Ireland League 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 1sts XV
St. Marys College RFC

@ Rifle Park

Match Details

BANBRIDGE   22      ST MARY’S   24

Another narrow defeat saw Banbridge drop down into fifth place in Division 1B of the Energia All-Ireland League, while the bonus–point success lifted winners St Mary’s out of the dreaded relegation play-off slot.

The outcome was particularly disappointing for Coach Mark McDowell given that his side had overcome a disastrous opening eight minutes to pull themselves right back into contention. “We didn’t start well – there’s no denying that,” admitted McDowell. “I thought we perhaps looked a little flat coming out and unfortunately within the first eight minutes we found ourselves 12 points down. Against a good outfit like Mary’s, 0-12 is a hard hole to dig yourselves out of.”

That opening barrage from St Mary’s had seen them score off a five minute lineout and maul after only two minutes, flanker Jack Gilger claiming the touchdown.

And just five minutes later they were 0-12 ahead after a speculative cross-field kick had bounced kindly to allow winger Craig Kennedy to take the off-load and dive over before adding the extras off the tee.

Bann were quick to respond, with scrum-half Neil Kilpatrick catching Max Lyttle’s pass out of the tackle to dive in at the posts, with Bruce Houston converting. And midway through the opening half Bann were on level terms, with the side’s leading try-scorer Peter Cromie adding to his impressive tally after his pack had driven over off a five metre lineout.

Houston’s conversion effort fell foul of the prevailing wind but he slotted over a penalty five minutes before the break to take his side three points in front.

St Mary’s came back strongly towards the end of the half, but a seemingly well-organised home defence seemed to have things under control, forcing the opposition to put in a kick which Doherty returned downfield. But visitors’ full-back Mark Fogarty ran the ball back and after a couple of phases No 8 Nick McCarthy found an unlikely gap between two defenders to set off on a 40 metre run, linking with Patrick O’Driscoll as the defence closed to put the scrum-half in at the posts. Kennedy converted to leave Bann chasing the game in the second half, 15-19 in arrears.

“We planned to start quickly using the wind to put them under pressure,” said McDowell. “There was a huge amount of character and resolve shown to get ourselves back in the game. We scored a couple of nice tries and we had some good sequences of attacking play. But conceding that try just before half-time sapped all the momentum out of our game and took away a bit of the control that we’d managed to exert.

“The disappointing thing is that it was quite an avoidable score – in fact we shipped two first-half tries that we could have managed better.”

Ten minutes into the second half and with Bann in attack mode, St Mary’s hacked through on a mis-directed pass and Kennedy gathered the ball to dive over for a 24-15 lead.

Cromie’s second try, scored after his forwards had driven lineout ball towards the Mary’s line, was converted on 65 minutes by Houston with an outstanding kick into the elements. But while that should have generated a final assault on the visitors’ lines, instead it was Mary’s calling the shots as the game went into the final stages.

Their strong scrummaging saw Bann skipper Michael Cromie yellow-carded, and while replacement prop Ross Haughey came on to steady the home ship, Bann finished the game grateful for the losing bonus point, their fourth this season.

“All credit to Mary’s,” added McDowell. “You could see what that win meant to them and their supporters at the end of the game. They set about their task pretty well I thought. When we got back to 22-24 I thought we would be able to go on and win it but we weren’t able to do that. We struggled to exit our “22” in those closing stages. They harried us all day and we unfortunately made uncharacteristic errors, especially around our accuracy.

“I thought Robin Sinton stepped up and had a good game and Greg Jones had some great carries and tackles. Collectively we didn’t produce as good a performance as we’re capable of. Naas next Saturday is now a huge fixture for us.”

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