BANN SECONDS 25 LIMAVADY 29
Seconds Coach Colin Bickerstaff was full of praise for his young team’s performance in this Conference League Two game, despite the final result of a contest that matched the bright Rifle Park weather.
An experienced Limavady side, which only lost out on promotion to Championship Division One on the last day of last season, made all the running in the first half to take an 11-19 lead into the break. But Bann fought back after the break to come within an ace of snatching a win in the closing minutes.
“I’ve seen some Seconds sides of previous seasons which would have capitulated after conceding three first half tries,” admitted Bickerstaff. “But these lads showed great spirit, pushing Limavady all the way and almost grabbing the win as they finished the stronger and fitter of the sides.”
A tidy chip behind the Bann defence let the visitors in for a converted try after just five minutes. Aaron Kennedy had a chance to pull back three points soon after the re-start but his penalty attempt was off-target. However when another penalty shot presented itself in the 12th minute the scrum-half slotted over from a more difficult angle to reduce the deficit.
The heavier Limavady pack began to test the home defence and a series of bludgeoning runs saw them add a second converted try under the posts.
That physicality was brought into play again and with the home defence in disarray the inevitable outcome was a third try after a five-man overlap had been created.
Bann had to get the next score to give hope of a fightback and it came following the re-start. Calum Boland followed up on good work by No 8 Reuben McCreery to give Jamie Mullan possession on the right flank. The young winger seemed to have his way to the line covered by the defence but he found a space and then out-paced two defenders on a 45 metre run to the corner.
At 8-19 Bann still had their work cut out but before the break Kennedy slotted over again after the pace of Alex Shannon and Ben Lavery had forced Limavady to concede another penalty.
Fifteen minutes into the second half McCreery’s carry and Macauley Little’s deft kick set Bann up for an assault close to the opposition line. Bann won a penalty under the posts and opted for the scrum. But on the re-set Limavady took ball against the head , Bann were penalised and from the lineout that followed the visitors’ centre broke through. Shannon gathered the chip under his posts but was forced to touch down and from the set piece Limavady went in for their bonus point try and an 11-24 lead on the hour.
It was a sickening blow, but Bann were far from being a spent force and Limavady’s efforts to contain another prolonged home attack earned their flanker a yellow card. McCreery picked up from the scrum under the posts that ensued and dotted down, with Kennedy’s conversion narrowing the gap to six points.
Limavady’s responded immediately, taking advantage of a knock-on from the re-start to add a fifth try in the corner.
Again Bann struck back, with Martin Vorster’s tremendous take of the re-start giving Bann front-foot ball. And again it was the impressive footwork of Mullan which saw the move rounded off with his second touchdown, Kennedy’s conversion leaving Bann facing a four point gap that they just couldn’t manage to close as Limavady clung on under further intense pressure.
“I thought the hard work the lads have put in on the training pitch was evident today again, “ said Bickerstaff. “We were out-muscled up front to some extent today. But I’m full of admiration for the way they stuck at it, refused to buckle and kept putting it up to Limavady.
“Of course we gave away a couple of soft tries and that’s disappointing. But overall that’s a performance we can build on. When a team shows spirit like that we can work on the rest of their game.
“Larne in the cup next weekend will be another big challenge but I know after today’s game that this team will battle for the whole 80 minutes and no coach can ask for more.”