Match Centre - February 7, 2020 - 7:45 pm

Provincial League 5 

Banbridge RFCBanbridge RFC 4ths XV

@ Rifle Park

Match Details


Bann Fourths defeated league leaders PSNI Seconds on Friday night with an immense display of fast flowing rugby in what spectators described as a highly entertaining game of rugby.

Manager Andy Fulton was pleased with the attitude the players showed against a police side setting the pace at the top of Provincial League Division Five. “It wasn’t a perfect display,” he said after the game. “But the fact that the lads were so annoyed to have conceded a try says much about their attitude.

“The lineouts weren’t as polished as usual so there’s work to be done there. But we played throughout at a fast pace, with strong ball-carrying and quick rucking and the PSNI just had no answer.”

The 4th XV have had an indifferent start to 2020 with one win, one defeat and one match having been conceded by the opposition. Despite this, they showed no rustiness and settled into their stride from the kick off. Having seen the away team out for a warm up an hour before the start it alerted the Bann players to the need for sharp focus and the importance of hitting the ground running.

With a mixture of strong running from the forwards, in particular Jonny Campbell, and the ball being rucked quickly and cleanly, the half-backs of Chris Berry and Jeff Dodds were offered loads of options. This resulted in huge territory gain and only errors such as knock-ons or penalties prevented the team from scoring.

The next big sign the home team were up for the match was in the first PSNI scrum when the Bann team took a strike against the head and turned it straight into attack. A mixture of strong runs from backs Jamie Ewing and Chris Beacom and forwards Sam Boyd and Campbell resulted in Campbell going in for the first of his scores, which unfortunately was unconverted.

Bann grew in confidence from this with the 8, 9, 10 axis working really well, providing fast clean ball for the team to attack. From a scrum on the PSNI 10 metre line Boyd picked up and fed Berry who found a gap and broke through. With quick ball again cleanly presented, No 8 Boyd picked up and evaded several tackles before wrong footing the full-back and galloping over for a well worked try, converted by Dodds.

At this point Bann were relentless with both Campbell and Boyd making strong runs, supported by the pack’s high work rate, especially from the front row of Stuart Totten, Ryan Ringland and Jonny McCreery.  A mixture of forward and back interplay resulted in the next score when Stuart Totten showed great strength, determination and pace for the young player to score a fantastic try.

When Bann had to defend they showed the same controlled aggression as in attack. The much heavier pack of PSNI was constantly stopped on the gain line and forced back. Mark Magowan, Neal Cochrane, Colin Bickerstaff and Stuart Marshall were relentless in their support play and tackling like demons. With PSNI getting no change out of their ball-carrying they were forced to kick deep. The back three of Grant Murphy, Ewing and Alex Shannon ran straight back anything that didn’t find touch. When the heavier PSNI team tried to maul they found themselves up against a Bann brick wall, either conceding possession or moving it away from their struggling pack.

To finish off what had been a great first half Captain Boyd showed the strength of a bull and the toes of a ballerina to dance past several players and fend off would-be tacklers to score the teams fourth and bonus point try, which Dodds converted for an interval total of 24 unanswered points.

After a brief break and some advice about keeping the possession and not getting to narrow in their play Bann kicked off the second half in similar vein. When the visitors attempted to mount a fightback they were constantly thwarted by strong tackles from the back row and a fast-closing back line. Chris Beacom, Ross Davis and Calum Russell put in some solid defensive work, forcing the opposition into errors. PSNI couldn’t get any flow and eventually gave up possession through a penalty for not releasing.

Bann went on the attack and through forward and back interplay put Jamie Ewing in for an unconverted try. Bann continued to press from the restart and forced PSNI into mistakes. A penalty five metres out from the PSNI line resulted in a scrum to Bann and following several strong runs Campbell went over for a converted try.

Bann took their foot off the gas and allowed PSNI to pressure their line, needlessly resulting in the opposition getting a consolation try.

This gave Bann much needed focus and in the time remaining they scored two further tries. Winger Alex Shannon out-paced his opposite number for the first and strong carries from Ewing and Colin Bickerstaff put Robin Hewitt in for the final touchdown. Coaches comments:

“I thought the whole team played well for the entire game,” added Fulton, “but there were a few players of note. Both Sam Boyd and Jonny Campbell had great matches and deserved their two tries. Colly Bickerstaff showed he still has a great engine and I think it drove the younger players on playing beside him. Jeff Dodds had a fantastic game at out-half marshalling the backline well and making the right choice when it came to going blind or open, but the other players have to be commended for giving him all the options.

“For me man-of-the-match was Chris Berry, everything was orchestrated through him – the pace, communication and the tackles. The team know the job is only half done as they must now travel to PSNI and win up there.

“First up next weekend we turn our attention to the Forster Plate quarter-final against Portadown Thirds from the league above. We will need a similar strong performance to get into the semis.”