Errors cost Bann dear in Senior Cup
Ballymena 36 BANBRIDGE 1STs 10
Any hopes Banbridge had of providing a first round Senior Cup challenge to Ballymena to rank alongside their performance in last season’s final had been extinguished by half-time, with the Eaton Park side opening up an interval gap of 22 points.
An improved second half performance produced a more respectable 14-10 points differential but still left the home side cruising comfortably into the second round.
Bann started brightly enough, with a strong run from full-back Gregg Taylor taking play deep inside the home “22”.
But Scott Gibson’s 18th minute penalty edged his side in front and six minutes later flanker Adrian Hamilton scored the first try, after Bann had shown a disappointing lack of awareness defending a free kick on their “22”. Gibson added the conversion to stretch the lead to ten points.
Jonny Weir and Jonny Pollock were prominent as Bann produced a good passage of play to pressurise the home line. But when Robin Thompson was forced to retire injured, Pollock switched from wing to out-half, with Jordan Weir coming off the bench.
Winger Alan Smyth went over in the corner for Ballymena’ second try and with the Bann defence too often found wanting, Gibson added the third try just before the break, adding the conversion for good measure.
Ballymena were making the most of every Bann mistake, and John Montgomery raced in from 60 metres for the fourth try, just six minutes into the second period, with Gibson’s conversion again finding the target.
Bann centre Andrew Morrison stood out for his defensive work and it was fitting that he picked up his team’s opening score after fielding a kick on the full and out-pacing the Ballymena rearguard on a 50 metre sprint to the line.
But just after the hour, a knock-on in the Bann ranks was picked up by home out-half Timmy Small and he had an unhindered 60 metre run to the line, Gibson’s conversion leaving him with a 16 point tally from the match.
Bann enjoyed a period of pressure at the end of the game, which flanker Stephen Irvine rounded off with a close-range try, but it was scant consolation.
Now Bann have to re-group, with Ballymena travelling to Rifle Park tonight (Wednesday) for an Ulster League game. Coach Daniel Soper may want to look at other players as he tries to find his best combination before the first All-Ireland League fixture at Greystones at the end of the month. He will certainly be looking for a tightening in a defence that has leaked eight tries in the two opening games.
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7.30pm and on Saturday Bann travel to take on Ards in the Ulster Senior League, kick-off 2.30pm.
Seconds claim win in Hatrick Park encounter
Bann Seconds made it two wins from two in the Conference Three League with a hard-fought win at Rainey last Saturday.
Although Bann deserved their success, such was the ebb and flow of the game that the result might have gone either way. After the home kicker had been off-target with an early penalty opportunity, Bann out-half Adam Doherty made no mistake when presented with a shot at the posts in the 12th minute.
Centre James Andrews was testing the midfield defence and his strong run created quick ruck ball to allow Geoff Thompson to burst through a Rainey tackle and make the try line in the 23rd minute.
But Rainey reduced the deficit with a penalty and just before the interval a careless tap down at a lineout was gathered by a home player who ran the 18 metres to the line unopposed, with the conversion leaving Bann two points in arrears at the break.
With Bann conceding too many penalties at the breakdown, Rainey were able to build up a head of steam at the start of the second half, retaining the ball through several phases before crossing the line from close range for a 15-8 lead.
Play was delayed for a period while the referee recovered after taking an accidental direct hit to the face from a fly-hack as Rainey defended their line. When play resumed Bann won possession from a lineout and John Porter came off his blindside wing to slice through the Rainey midfield before rounding the full-back to touch down at the posts. Doherty’s conversion tied the scores.
Bann were now edging the exchanges and after they had encamped once more close to the home line, thanks to another fine run from Porter, scrum-half Jeff Dodds darted over from a ruck for a try which Doherty converted with an excellent kick.
Bann might have paid the penalty for failing to contain Rainey in their own territory. Mis-kicks and penalties allowed the home side to take up good field position but the Bann defence was solid. And when play moved back downfield Doherty was just off-target with a penalty opportunity.
But the young No 10 sealed the win with the last move of the game, re-gathering his own chip ahead to race in for a try before adding the conversion.
Bann should have won this game more comfortably than they did and against better teams they will pay the price if they continue to flout the laws, especially at the ruck situation.
Prop Stuart Cromie worked hard throughout and Jamie McDonald had a solid game at No 8. Geoff Thompson put in some ferocious tackles in the midfield and John Porter always looked dangerous when in possession.
The Seconds will be hoping to maintain their good Conference League form when they travel to Ards this weekend.