Bann score 50 points in league game
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
A MALONE side which travelled to Banbridge on the back of a six game winning sequence left Rifle Park shell-shocked after conceding seven tries.
There was no clue as to what was to follow in an evenly-contested opening 40 minutes, with the sides level on 15 points having scored two tries apiece. But Bann cut loose after the break to make an emphatic statement about their ambition to finish on top Division 2A of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
Bann Coach Daniel Soper said that he couldn't have imagined that his team would win so comprehensively. "It's very seldom that you score 50 points in an AIL game," he said reflecting on the game. "We haven't done it very often and certainly not against a side as good as Malone that has been in such good form."
Hooker Peter Cromie used his acceleration to get past the Malone defence in the second minute of the game, exchanging passes with Adam Ervine before crossing for a try which Adam Doherty bettered off the tee.
But Malone responded with two tries in three minutes to take a 7-12 lead with 11 minutes played. Prop Ben Halliday's bullocking run set up a ruck close to the home line and scrum-half Shane Kelly picked up and dived over, with Mark O'Connor converting. Then O'Connor off-loaded skilfully to put right winger Nathan Brown in at the corner for an unconverted try.
With both sides looking dangerous in possession the game flowed at an impressive pace. Josh Cromie's inside pass almost put flanker Richard Graham in for Bann's second try, but the home side had to settle for a Doherty penalty. Then a Malone attack was stopped by John Porter's knock-on, which the referee deemed worthy of a yellow card, and O'Connor restored his side's five point lead.
But eight minutes before the break Adam Ervine was put in at the right hand corner after the Bann scrum had imposed itself on the Malone eight to create the gap down the blindside flank.
A Doherty penalty edged Bann in front on 50 minutes and 10 minutes later the home side opened up from a scrum inside their 10 metre line. Winger Simon Lloyd made good ground before centre Andrew Morrison chipped behind the closing defence and out-paced the cover to touchdown, with Doherty converting superbly from the touchline.
Lock Mike Bentley picked up the bonus point try with 15 minutes remaining after collecting from a ruck turned over by Morrison 40 metres out. He looked up to to find the Malone blindside cover had gone AWOL and given him an unhindered gallop to the try line, with Doherty again adding the extras.
Three tries in the final ten minutes may have distorted the scoreline but given Bann's territorial domination after the break there was no disputing their right to the bonus point win.
Full-back Ervine won the race to Doherty's tidy grubber into the Malone in-goal and the Bann skipper completed his hat-trick two minutes later after replacement Matthew Laird had punched his way through the Malone lines to send Ervine scorching in at the left hand corner flag.
Malone enjoyed their longest period of the second half in the home "22" in the closing stages but even then luck was not on their side as Jonny Little hacked a loose ball downfield. Morrison chased and two further kicks propelled the ball over the try line where the centre touched down.
With two of the last three tries converted, Bann were over the half century and Malone were left to reflect on how a promising start had gone so wrong.
“I wasn't surprised by the first half which was pretty tight," said Soper." We started really well and got that early try. Then we seemed to have a lapse in concentration and conceded a couple of scores - maybe we thought it was all going to happen a bit too easily. But we defended well after conceding those scores in the first half and again in the second half. But I certainly didn't expect the scoreline to get away quite like it did.
“There was an element of luck involved in some of our scores but there was also a very good awareness of space and we were very clinical about how we went about getting our scores. The players looked as if they had a very good understanding of our pattern and our game plan and they were sticking to that quite well."
Bann had taken the field without four first-choice players and Soper was pleased with the way their replacements and the players off the bench had contributed. "We had another new combination at 9 and 10 - that's the first game that Josh (Cromie) and Adam (Doherty) have played together at half-back.
We've had nine different combinations there this season and there's no doubt that's had an impact on how we've played.
“But credit to Adam, he has been in the team for a few years now, he understands how we're trying to play and for his first game of the season at 10, I thought he did very, very well. And the players coming off the bench did very well, they're certainly becoming more realistic options for us."
This bonus point win extended the gap at the top to two points, although challengers Highfield have a game in hand. But Bann coach Daniel Soper said that his side must keep winning to keep the pressure on Highfield, with the Cork side having arguably the more difficult run-in of the two clubs.
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