Banbridge Rugby Club Notes Up To Sat 19th Feb: I XV v Nenagh Ormonde Rugby, Hinch Rugby IV XV v Bann rugby III XV, V XV v Malone Rugby V XV, U13 XV v Newry Rugby U13 XV

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Banbridge produced another late, late show to snatch victory out of the grasp of visitors Nenagh in last weekend’s Ulster Bank League game.

A ferocious defensive display by the Tipperary side, together with the boot of out-half David Devaney, appeared to have the visitors on course for success as the game went into the dying minutes with them nursing an 11-14 lead. Up to that point Bann had struggled, despite prolonged periods of possession, to breach the Nenagh defensive barrier, with just a pushover try, courtesy of their renowned scrummaging power, and two penalties to show for their efforts.

But they launched one final attack and when replacement flanker Mark Wilson managed to off-load out of a two-man tackle, Michael Cromie found himself in space 18 metres out. With the cover defence closing the burly prop had enough pace, and energy, to make the line to the noisy delight, and undoubted relief, of the Rifle Park fans.

Play re-started, but a Nenagh knock-on created the last set play and when the ball emerged from the scrum Neville Farr’s cross-field kick was helped into touch by Ashley Finlay to end the game.

The pattern of the match was set in the opening ten minutes when Bann encamped in the visitors’ half and frequently close to the try line. Going through multiple phases they tested the Nenagh defence right across the pitch, only to find it unyielding until a knock-on allowed the visitors a temporary respite. Again Bann attacked but the outcome was the same, only this time Bann were penalised and Nenagh were able to kick their way into home territory for the first time in the match.

Midway through the half a Bann fumble at the base of a ruck produced a counter-attack which almost saw Nenagh winger Steve Harvey in at the left corner flag. As the pressure was maintained Bann were penalised five metres out. Play was halted for a couple of minutes while Farr received attention for a knock and when the game re-started Devaney put in a neat cross-field kick for Ger Harmse. The tall winger out-jumped Stephen Cowan to knock the ball back and his full-back Steve Carey picked up and set it down over the line for the opening score of the game. Devaney was just off-target with the conversion.

Jonny Little did find a gap in the Nenagh midfield defence, his 30 metre run taking play inside the visitors’ “22”. But with support slow to arrive he was penalised for holding on at the tackle and Nenagh were able to avert the danger.

Towards the end of the first half the Bann scrum began to get the upper hand at the set piece and when they won ball against the head, Shandon Scott, filling the No 10 shirt in the absence of Robin Thompson, made Nenagh pay for an infringement with a successful penalty kick.

The visitors finished the half strongly and only some sharp defensive work by Bann centre Andrew Morrison prevented a second try after an attempted clearance kick was charged down.

However Devaney stretched their lead in the first minute of the second half, his 45 metre kick finding the target after Bann had been penalised at the re-start.

Scott failed with a chance to redress the balance three minutes later, his penalty shot drifting just outside the post, but Bann were beginning to dominate the exchanges and Little was hauled down just short of the try line. As the Nenagh scrum began to buckle under the pressure Bann won another penalty which was kicked to the corner for a 5-metre lineout, but there was no let-up in the intensity of the tackling as Nenagh defended their line fiercely.

Prop Fergal Brislane was yellow-carded in the 57th minute for a high tackle on Cromie as Bann continued to pose all the questions. This time Scott’s kick bisected the posts to reduce the deficit to 6-8. And when the Bann pack won a 5-metre scrum four minutes later, Nenagh were pushed steadily back over their line, allowing No 8 Dale Carson to touch down.

Bann had now edged three points in front, but it was Nenagh’s turn to enjoy a period of possession and Devaney made no mistake with penalties in the 69th and 73rd minutes as Bann’s discipline began to break down.

Then came that final flurry of activity and Bann’s second try for a win which keeps them on course for a top five finish. Instonians are next up for Bann and with the Belfast side having shipped seven tries at Greystones in their first defeat of the season, it would be a foolish man who would wager any money on the outcome of Saturday’s game at Shaw’s Bridge.

Bann have just recorded the one AIL win over their Belfast rivals since they graduated to senior rugby. A second success this Saturday would leave them well-placed to claim one of the four automatic promotion slots. But they will need to improve on elements of their game – and they can be sure that Instonians will want to bounce back from that stunner at Greystones and re-claim top spot in Division Three.

Bann Team:- Ben Purvis, Ashley Finlay, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Stephen Cowan, Shandon Scott, Neville Farr, Michael Cromie, Jonny Murphy, Brian Hanna, Chris Allen, Simon McKinstry, Colin Bickerstaff, Ryan Patterson, Dale Carson. Replacements:- Paul Ross, James McCrum, Mark Wilson (for Allen), Jonny Pollock, James Andrews.


The Bann Thirds side which travelled to play at Ballynahinch last Saturday was somewhat depleted for a number of reasons, particularly in the pack. This is an area in which Ballynahinch are strong, and their decision to take Bann to the short and narrow High School pitch spelt trouble from the start.

From early in the game Bann struggled to win both their scrum and lineout ball. Sam Boyd and Collie Hamilton did a good job to secure the ball at the back of the scrum whilst it was retreating at pace. However this meant a real lack of go forward ball for the backs. Despite losing most of their own lineout ball, Bann managed to keep pressurising ‘Hinch, and were to go 0-6 ahead with two well struck penalties from Francois Viljoen.

Eventually however Bann buckled under pressure and conceded a converted try, which gave ‘Hinch a 7-6 lead. Bann then managed to defend their line very well from continuous assaults from the stronger ‘Hinch side before breaking out to win a penalty, which Viljoen again converted, to put Bann ahead 7-9.

The score remained unchanged for some time, and looked like it may finish that way, until the Bann pack, after some great defending, conceded an easy try to the ‘Hinch No 8. Although unconverted, the try gave the home side a three point advantage with only 7 minutes to play
Bann fought their way back up the pitch and were to be awarded two more long-distance penalties. Viljoen was unlucky not to convert at least one of these kicks, with the ball actually bouncing of the crossbar.

In their efforts to throw everything at the opposition in the dying minutes, Bann conceded a penalty, which ‘Hinch duly converted, to leave the final score 15-9 in their favour.

Thanks are due to Andy Fulton for stepping in at the very last minute to replace Andy Craig.

Although this set-back will knock the Thirds off the top of the league, there is still a lot of rugby to be played before promotion is decided, and Team Manager Andy Duke is confident that the team has what it takes to finish first!

Next week Bann return to Ballynahinch to take on their 3rd XV in the Crawford Cup. Hopefully the return of Jelly and Nelson to the pack will give the team the lift they will need if they are to progress to the next round.

Bann Fifths entertained Malone Fifths in the quarter-finals of the Butler Shield and the visitors started the stronger with their inside-centre breaking two Bann tackles before scoring under the posts within 5 minutes of the kick-off. The extra points for the conversion were added.
Following the re-start the Bann pack started to move the Malone pack about and were gaining valuable ground through a series of quick rucks. One such ruck set the backline moving and Jerry Ramsey fed Russell Anderson who broke the gain line and into the Malone “22”. A further ruck saw Malone slow the Bann ball down and Bann were awarded the penalty in front of the posts. Jake Fisher duly converted the kick.
Bann pressure and quality rucking saw a further three kickable penalties awarded in the first half but unfortunately none of the kicks was successful. The third kick struck the upright and with Robert Buller following up he secured possession. After the ball was taken forward through Chris Nelmes his wide pass found number 8 Lyle Cairns, who was only metres short of the try line when bundled into touch.
The start of the second half saw each team swap penalties bringing the score to 10 – 6. A maul situation around the half way line saw prop Darren McAlinden rip ball from the opposition and break away. Thirty metres closer to the Malone line the big prop was finally tackled but Bann continued to pressurise the Malone goal line. Mark Ferguson was hauled down only inches from the line before Malone cleared their lines to relieve the pressure.
With ten minutes left on the clock Bann had a series of scrums five metres from the Malone line. The Bann back row moved the ball and again Malone were forced to slow the ball down, a penalty was awarded and the yellow card shown, reducing the visitors to 14 men. From the tap penalty Bann’s back row created a fine try to give their side a single point advantage.
Almost from the re-start Malone moved the ball through their backs from their own half and created the space for their winger to run half the length of the field and score under the posts, with the conversion leaving Bann needed a converted try of their own to claim their place in the semis. It proved beyond them as Malone saw out the remaining five minutes to eliminate the home team from the competition. All the players should be proud of Saturday’s performance with a special mention going to Mark Fisher who willingly stepped in to help the team.
BANN U-17s 32 BALLYCLARE U-17s 7
Bann’s U17 side, sponsored by Gordons Chemists, took on Ballyclare in the semi-final of the Brewin Dolphin Ulster League play-offs on Saturday and after a bruising encounter had secured their place in the final.

Bann spent the first 10 minutes of the match in their own “22” but soaked up the early pressure with resolute defence. A series of penalties had kept Bann deep in their own half and some hard work was needed to break out, but eventually a 40 metre charge from Kasper Kruzyki got Bann into a scoring position. A lineout followed by a maul allowed captain Jonny McCreery to force his way over the line and record the first points of the game.

Bann now had their best period of the first half and scored their second try after several phases set the backs free to move the ball wide. With the Ballyclare defence stretched lock Kyle McConnell showed an impressive turn of speed to touch down in the corner. A third try followed soon after, the backs again showing good handling skills to move the ball beyond the visitors’ defence, with Ryan Graham finishing well.

The second half saw Ballyclare start strongly and Bann again conceded several penalties leading to a yellow card and the home side down to 14 players. Ballyclare kicked a penalty to the corner five metres from the Bann line and scored from the resulting maul, leaving the score 15-7 in Bann’s favour.

The home team always looked dangerous when the backs got the ball but the penalty count was disrupting their flow and left them conceding too much field position. At this point Adam Doherty was brought on as a replacement and he had an immediate impact on the game when he sprinted 45 metres before being tackled 5 metres short of the line. Bann turned over the resulting scrum when Joshua Coyle charged down a defensive kick and Richard Graham fed McCreery for his second try of the game, Doherty adding the conversion.

The game continued with a high penalty count against Bann but when thy got possession they were clinical with their counter-attacks. The next score came from turnover ball moved quickly to Macauley Little who was in danger of being caught in possession but stylishly off-loaded between his legs to Doherty who raced home from 50 metres.

The final try of the game again originated from a turnover, this time in the Bann “22”. After sustained pressure and tremendous tackling from Chris Knox, McCreery ripped the ball free allowing the backs to move the ball to Doherty who had too much pace for Ballyclare and finished from 80 metres out.

This was a less than perfect display from the U17s but they have worked hard to get to the final and deserve a lot of credit for this season’s performances.

The tackling was fantastic on Saturday with Ryan Dennison again prominent. Knox had a massive influence in the pack along with Doherty and Little in the backs.

This Saturday (26th) at 11.30am the U17s take on Malone in the Ulster League Final, with the winners going on to represent their province in the All-Ireland semi-finals. The Bann squad will be glad of your support and you can be assured of an entertaining game from two well-matched teams.

The strength of youth rugby at Rifle Park is underlined by the presence of Bann in the Under-15 League Final as well. Their game against Carrick kicks off at 10.15am, so come along to Lisburn Rugby Club and support these two squads of fine young players who are maintaining a long-established tradition of success at youth level in Banbridge.

NEWRY U-13s 5 BANN U-13s 38

With several regular players missing the Leader-sponsored Bann Under-13 squad travelled to Newry with five debutants. Up stepped Ross Cartmill, Jordan Mount and John Buller from the U-12s. Sam Baxter and John Bebbington were also late additions to the depleted squad.

Newry started the game and Bann received the kick off. The Bann pack took the game deep into the Newry half and quick release from Max Buller to Ross Cartmill saw an inside pass to Jamie Mullan only to be knocked on over the line. The resulting scrum saw Bann take it against the head with Matthew Blain hooking. No 8 William Cousins picked up from the base of the scrum, caught the defence in disarray and ran in to score. Ben Thompson converted.

Newry kicked off again and John Buller took on the opposition defence. He ran 50 metres and after some desperate defending was stopped just short of the line. Newry re-grouped and found touch. From a binding issue at a scrum a penalty was awarded to Newry. The home side tapped it quickly and Bann with their backs turned let Newry’s big centre run half the length of the pitch to score in the corner.

Toby Baxter regained Thompson’s drop kick and made good ground with Samuel Mount driving him on. Buller released Dubem Ajeh on the blind and the powerful centre crashed his way through several tacklers to score under the posts. Thompson’s second conversion gave his side a 5-14 interval lead.

Bann went into the second half knowing they could win this by using their powerful and mobile forwards to make the hard yards and then release their dangerous backs to score. They stuck to their game plan and this was a one-sided half. Some great Bann rucking saw Thompson release Ajeh and again the centre powered his way to score in the corner.

Angus Corbett, Sheldon Savage and Matthew Blain were making great ground through the middle and each time the ball was released to the backs there was an overlap. This time Cartmill received the ball in the centre and drew in his man to allow Ajeh to run in for his hat trick of tries.

The very mobile back row of Cousins, Corbett and Baxter were making it difficult for Newry to get any time on the ball. This was evident when Cousins tackled the fly half and quickly wrestled the ball off him before outstripping the defence to score under the posts.

With the last play of the game Jordan Mount side-stepped his way into the Newry half and some slick passing between forwards and backs saw man of the match Ajeh have the final word when he once again scored under the posts.

This was a great controlled performance from Bann expertly led by Ben Thompson and Toby Baxter. With five players experiencing their first game of 15-man rugby in a Bann shirt no one was out of place. The back row was hard working all day and the centre pairing was also very impressive. Wing John Buller could have been in for a brace only for some desperate defending.

Ajeh gets the man of the match award for his ferocious tackling against a much bigger opponent and his powerful and clinical finishing resulting in a personal tally of 4 tries.

Training continues on Wednesday night from 7 to 8.30. Extra training at Banbridge Boxing Club on Monday from 7.30 to 8.30.

Team. Jordan Cairns, Sam Baxter, Ross Cartmill, Dubem Ajeh, Ben Thompson (C), Max Buller, William Cousins, Toby Baxter, Jamie Mullan, Angus Corbett, Samuel Mount, Alexander Cousins, Matthew Blain, Sheldon Savage, John Bebbington, Jordan Mount.

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