BANN SECONDS 0 BALLYNAHINCH SECONDS 25
Bann Seconds exited from this season’s Towns’ Cup competition at the semi-final stage, losing out to a Ballynahinch side who go on to contest the Easter Monday final with Ballyclare, victors over Dromore.
‘Second best in too many areas’ was Bann Coach Colin Bickerstaff’s summary of his side’s display as he reflected on a game played out in front of a large crowd at Rifle Park. “It was a physical mis-match basically and we didn’t know how to play them,” he admitted. “We tried to play them like we played against Omagh in the quarter-final and it didn’t work, because they were a bigger and more physical team and they just won the arm-wrestle.
“It’s not that we played badly – I thought we played quite well. We had a strong team out and I don’t think we could have done much more. They were just too strong.”
Playing into the strong wind in the first half Bann took the game to the opposition, building through the phases to threaten the ‘Hinch line on a number of occasions during the opening ten minutes.
But having resisted all Bann’s efforts to break through their ranks, ‘Hinch were able to use the elements to shift the focus of the exchanges to the other end of the pitch. There they won a penalty, which out-half Greg Hutley, showing no ill-effects from his role in his side’s Senior Cup final defeat at the Kingspan the previous night, slotted over for a 0-3 lead.
They added an unconverted try on 21 minutes, courtesy of Josh Jordan. And with Bann still under the cosh, an inevitable second try followed 11 minutes later, with Calum Irvine taking advantage of some slipshod defence to cross near the posts, simplifying Hutley’s conversion.
That lead was extended to 18 points by Hutley’s second penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Bann needed an early score after the break if they were to have any chance of retrieving the situation. Instead it was the visitors who went further ahead, Jordan notching up his second try and Hutley converting.
That left Bann needing four scores but it was soon evident that that was beyond them. Where ‘Hinch had been able to use the first half wind to keep play at the town end of the pitch, Bann’s efforts to copy that tactic were snagged either by over-kicking which saw the ball run dead or unsympathetic bounces which allowed ‘Hinch to run the ball back.
And despite the best ball-carrying efforts of the Bann forwards, particularly Stephen Irvine, Martin Vorster and Richard Graham, the ‘Hinch line could not be breached.
“That defensive effort in the first half took its toll on us,” said Bickerstaff. “We just couldn’t get back into the game in the second half. They made better use of the wind – we just weren’t able to harness it to put pressure on them. Then when we did get into their half we made mistakes, whether it was giving away a penalty, a pass going to ground or knocking on.
“Every time we built pressure we just let them off the hook. They were much more clinical with the ball – nothing fancy, just doing the simple things well.
“I was pleased to get Marty Vorster back – I thought he had a cracking game, really gave us much better balance in the pack. And it improved our lineouts, not that it was a great day for lineouts.”
The Coach still reflected proudly on his side’s cup run, one which saw Bann Seconds feature for the first time ever in a Towns’ Cup semi-final. “It was a fantastic achievement, especially with such a young side, and one we can build on over the next few seasons.”