Banbridge 5 Dungannon 10

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FIRST TRUST SENIOR LEAGUE: Saturday, December 19


Scorers: Banbridge: Tries : Matthew Irvine
Dungannon: Tries: Derek Hall; DG: James Shiells; Pens: James Shiells

There are two reposts available for this mid-Ulster tussle in the First Trust Senior League.

Dungannon Report.

This game was played in bitterly cold conditions and the quality of the play was such that some of the spectators were constantly distracted by the image a sucking pig on a spit in the entrance hall to the Banbridge Clubhouse. Indeed had the aroma of the crackling reached the pitch even the stoutest hearted supporter might have succumbed to temptation.

Dungannon started brightly with Jason Bloomfield and Derek Hall pushing play deep into the Bann half. On five minutes a Bloomfield break set up a ruck in front of the Bann posts. A surge by Richard Carleton was held before Glen Sinnamon slipped past a defender and off loaded to Derek Hall who dived over for the try that James Shiells converted. 0 – 7

A good start we thought. We did not know then that there would be little to cheer for the remaining seventy-five minutes. James Shiells had a couple of good penalty kicks to the corner and a harsh decision by the ref robbed Michael Rainey of an almost certain try. Anas Smaali had a great run down the wing but Banbridge fullback Ashley Finlay won the race to touch down Anas’s kick ahead. A break by Paul Magee almost let Craig Gilroy away but he was crowded out five metres short.

Dungannon kept the pressure on Banbridge and Glen Telford almost made it through after beating two men but in general there was little to warm the spectators.

The second half saw Bann come into the match more and indeed they dominated the final quarter. James Shiells successfully converted a thirty metre penalty after fifty minutes. 0 – 10

The usually reliable Neville Farr missed a penalty for Banbridge before flanker Matthew Irvine made a good break up field. From the resultant maul Irvine broke off the back and dived over for a deserved try on the hour. 5 – 10

The rest of the match belonged to Banbridge and Dungannon had to defend well to keep the host’s at bay. The final fifteen minutes brought the rain which coupled with the cold made that image of that suckling pig very attractive more especially to the Dungannon supporters who were anxious to hear the final whistle.

Banbridge will take much more away from this game than Dungannon.

For the record when we returned to the Clubhouse the pig had been scoffed by some fair weather hockey supporters.

Team: John McGuckin. Anas Smaali, Paul Magee, Glen Telford, Craig Gilroy. James Shiells, Jason Bloomfield (David Spence). Glen Sinnamon, Richard Carleton (Timothy Potter), Mark Farquhar (Gary Maxwell). Michael Rainey, Richard Holmes (James Sandford). Derek Hall, Ali Birch, Stuart McKenzie. Sub: Ethan Allen

Referee: Stephen Rainey (Queen’s)

Banbridge Report

The final whistle in Saturday’s Ulster League game at Rifle Park came as a great relief to players and spectators alike as the icy cold wind had the gathering assistance of rain to inflict discomfort in the closing stages.

But Dungannon’s anxiety to hear proceedings brought to a conclusion was probably intensified by their fear of Bann making it three wins in the last four games between the sides. Certainly it was the AIL Division Three team which finished much the stronger, leaving the visitors clinging desperately to the lead afforded them by virtue of the greater success rate of their kicker, out-half James Shiells.

With the Dungannon lineout operating fitfully at best and their set scrum always playing second fiddle to the home eight, another upset was always on the cards. But Bann failed to drive home their advantage despite consistently getting into good territorial position in the last quarter and Dungannon clung on to claim the points and move into second place in the League table.

Bann’s defensive work was generally solid and well-organised, with Dungannon making them pay the price for one mistake just six minutes into the game. Flanker Derek Hall broke off the side of a scrum 10 metres out and slipped out of the first-up tackle to find a clear route to the posts. Shiells’ conversion was straightforward.

Bann then enjoyed a 10 minute spell in the opposition half with Matthew Irvine just failing to make the try line after one sustained attack. Dunannon lock Richard Holmes was yellow-carded for pulling down at the line-out, but Bann failed to take advantage. Indeed the visitors would have doubled their try tally only for Chris Leathem’s fine chase-back and tackle three metres out from his team’s line.

When Bann skipper Simon McKinstry picked up a yellow card in the 38th minute for a technical offence, Shiells’ penalty shot from 40 metres rebounded off an upright. Bann ran the ball out of defence only to concede another penalty from a similar range, but again Shiells was off-target.

However 10 minutes into the second half he made no mistake when afforded another opportunity from in front of the posts, taking his team into double figures. From the re-start Bann were awarded a penalty 26 metres out but Neville Farr’s kick drifted wide.

Five minutes later Bann won another penalty from which they set up a lineout five metres out from the Dungannon line. The maul which followed was driven towards the line and Irvine peeled off to force his way over for the score. The conversion attempt went astray but for much of the next 15 minutes Bann were encamped in the Dungannon half.

An attempt to grab a second try from the lineout and driving maul ploy foundered when for the only time in the game Dungannon plundered ball on Bann’s throw. Ashley Finlay and Dale Black put in promising runs to maintain the pressure but, with Dungannon successfully defending a series of scrums close to the line, time ran out for the home side as the conditions deteriorated.

On the basis of this match it was hard to believe that Bann were picking up their first point after six games in the Ulster League campaign. The efficiency of their set piece and defensive organisation out wide showed just why their AIL fortunes have improved dramatically in recent games.

Team manager Roy Stevenson was disappointed that his side had failed to pick up the win that their efforts merited. “We probably lacked the experience to make all that territory count,” he said after the game. “But we showed today that we have a pack that can live with any in Ulster. They are still very young but have made tremendous strides since the start of the season. We have games against Instonians and Malone now before Wanderers come to us in the AIL on the 9th January. You could say we’re looking forward with confidence to the New Year.”

Bann team:- Ashley Finlay, Jonny Little, Dale Black, Darren Cochrane, Chris Leathem, Adam Ervine, Neville Farr, Michael Cromie, Jonny Weir, James McCrum, Jonny Martin, Simon McKinstry, Ryan Patterson, Matthew Irvine, Jamie Johnston. Replacements:- Paul Ross, Brian Hanna, Ross Semple, Stephen Cowan, Jeff Dodds.

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