News

Unbeatean streak comes to and end.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

AN UNBEATEN Ulster Bank League run stretching back to last January came to an end in Limerick on Saturday when Banbridge lost to Division 1B pace-setters Shannon at a rain and windswept back pitch at Thomond Park.

Shannon...33
Banbridge...14

The Rifle Park side had known that the game at Shannon was likely to prove their toughest task to date and so it proved.

Bann's lengthy injury list was already taking its toll, particularly on the back five of the scrum, forcing them to call on the services of former club captain Jonny Graham, with Newry agreeing to his release on a dual status basis.

Those difficulties were magnified with the departure from Saturday's action of lock Robin Sinton and flanker Nick Hayes within the first 27 minutes. But while acknowledging that their departure impacted greatly on his team's chances, Bann coach Daniel Soper paid tribute to the opposition, who he said were the better team on the day.

"The loss of those two players knocked our lineout back a bit, both offensive and defensive lineouts", he commented.

"Shannon's lineout was excellent and they got two scores from it. We knew it was going to be tough. Shannon are a very good side and it will take a very good performance from someone to beat them. They're top of the league for a reason.

"But in some aspects of our game I thought we did very well. We created a good score early on and created other chances but didn't quite finish them off. But with the changes we had to make at half-back and the other changes forced on us by those injuries we just didn't settle well enough."



Bann started so well, winning a penalty in the first minute which Rob Lyttle sent just wide of the posts in the swirling wind. But Michael Cromie's charge through a ruck soon had them back in opposition territory, with Sinton's lineout steal keeping the pressure on the home side.

But it was Shannon who struck the first telling blow, thanks to Eathon Moloney's 12th minute interception and 55 metre sprint to the Bann posts, with Conor Fitzgerald adding the extras.

Bann had to work harder for their equalising score, going through the phases before Andrew Morrison's weaving run took play close to the try line. He was eventually hauled down but Adam Doherty's long pass from the recycled ball found Sinton on the left flank and the lock burst through a Shannon tackle to touch down out wide, with Lyttle striking a fine conversion.

But the try came at a cost, with Sinton's damaged shoulder forcing his premature retirement.

Graham came on as his replacement and Jonny Weir replaced Peter Cromie when the hooker moved to fill the vacancy created by Hayes' withdrawal eight minutes later.

Shannon had started to enjoy some territory and showed their forward power after they had kicked a penalty to the corner.

Clean lineout and a powerful maul put hooker Duncan Casey in for a score and on the stroke of half-time it was déjà vu, as the Shannon No 2 touched down on the other flank courtesy of the same ploy, with Fitzgerald's efficiency off the tee taking the interval score to 21-7.

Shannon bossed the exchanges at the start of the second period and Nathan Randles went in for the bonus point try. Bann's first venture of the second half into the home "22" arrived on the hour and although Shannon initially withstood the pressure it eventually told, with Bann's back-up front row of Stuart Cromie, Weir and Tom O'Toole leading the way as the pack drove the Shannon eight back over their own line and Stephen Irvine touched down, with Lyttle adding the extras.

That left Bann needing a score to salvage a losing bonus point in the ten minutes that remained. But in trying to build from deep in their own "22" the ball went astray, Fitzgerald got his boot to it, gathered the ball and dotted down under the posts before adding the conversion.

Soper said the mood in the Bann camp was still positive.

"We 're still in a good position, one that we 're delighted to be in at this stage. We're still doing a lot of things really well. We'll have Ian Porter back for the Old Belvedere game, John Porter will also be available, so our backline will probably be the strongest it's been. The front row is going very well, all six guys. We'll just have to see who pulls up next week to play in the back five of the scrum."

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