City Of Armagh Rugby Club I XV 17 v Banbridge Rugby Club I XV 15

Armagh travelled to Rifle Park, on Saturday to play their neighbours, Banbridge, in their fifth game in the Ulster League. Ironically, both sides had secured six league points from four games but Banbridge had a slightly better points difference, which put them on a higher spot. Both clubs rated this encounter as being a local derby match and it was obvious from the body language displayed by both teams as they were put through their pre-match warm up routines that they both hungered to win this fixture.
Armagh fielded two new players for this game, both from South Africa. Jacques van Rooyen at tight-head prop and Tinus van Wyk at lock forward. The arrival of these players had created a serious buzz around The Palace Grounds. Another adition to the Armagh pack was hooker Gareth Megaw who joined the squad from Queen’s.
Banbridge kicked-off in bright sunshine with a stiffish breeze at their backs right from the start Armagh launched an attack up the left wing when Matthew Irwin almost got through the Banbridge defence. This seemed to indicate that Armagh were more than keen to stamp their mark on this game. After only eleven minutes play the home side were penalised for a rucking offence just outside their ’22. James McBriar landed the kick and put the score 0-3 to Armagh. Banbridge responded with a try when the home No. 8 went over but the conversion went wide to bring the score to 5-3.

After twenty minutes play Armagh’s new lock forward made a spirited break down the centre and gained at least 20 metres for his efforts. Not to be out done Armagh’s No.8, James McCall made a similar break from the base of a scrum. Armagh were penalized for straying off-side just to the left of their posts. Banbridge’s out-half landed the kick to put the home side 8-3 ahead. Armagh showed their defiance when, only two minutes later, Mark Riddell burst through and scored a try between the posts. Mc Briar converted to put the score at 8-10. Not to be outdone the home full-back scored a try which was converted to bring the half-time score to 15-10.
After the re-start when Armagh had the wind at their backs they set about capitalising on this advantage. Mark Riddell made a fine break down the left wing and almost scored another try but a handling error saw the ball spilled into touch. James McBriar repeatedly kicked for touch sending the ball deep into Banbridge territory. The Armagh line-out was working well by this stage of the game and the forwards were feeding their backs more than their fair share of ball. This supply resulted in a fine try when, centre, Colin Atkinson burst through the Banbridge defence and scored just right of the posts. McBriar converted to bring the score to 15-17.
This was the final score and it should be remembered that Banbridge failed to put any points on the board in the second half. Coach, Andy Hughes, nominated flanker, Mark Riddell, as the man of the match.
Just after the final whistle blew the club text informed the Armagh supporters that not only had the first fifteen won their match the second’s also beat their Banbridge opposition 32-0 The fourth’s beat Portadown 28-13. But possibly biggest win of the day had to go to the Armagh mini rugby squad who won ALL their games at the tournament at Banbridge and brought home the Banbridge Outlet Trophy – the first silverware win of the season. 100% win record is not at all bad for a wee country club!
Next week Armagh make the long trek south to Musgrave Park in Cork where they meet Sunday’s Well in their first game in The All-Ireland League. No doubt the win against Banbridge will add to the young team’s confidence.