Sports

Bann hold top spot despite defeat

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

BANBRIDGE held on to the top spot in Division 2A of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League, but only by points difference after suffering a four-try defeat at the hands of Nenagh.

Nenagh...25
Banbridge ...5

The Tipperary side had been undefeated up to the previous Saturday when Malone came out on top thanks to a last-minute score. They were obviously intent on producing a reaction to that setback as they came out on Saturday with all guns blazing to blast their way over the Bann line for a fourth minute try.

From that point on Bann spent too much time on the back foot and with their handling falling way below the standard they have set themselves, too many scoring chances went a-begging.

Bann coach Daniel Soper made no attempt to hide his disappointment at the team's performance.

“Nenagh are a good side and they had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half which they took and took very well," he said.

“We created opportunities in the first half and we only took one of them when we maybe should have had three scores which we left on the park after our catch-pass let us down.

“The score just before half-time was a pretty disappointing one to concede as I thought we'd got well back into the game at 10-5 and looking the more likely to score. That meant we were really having to chase it in the second half."

Prop Jonathan Hayes crossed the Bann line for that opening try and although John Porter's penetrating run through the Nenagh defence into the "22" might have have earned Bann the equalising score soon afterwards, it was the home side which grabbed a second try, with out-half Clayton Stewart's long pass allowing the unmarked flanker John O'Flaherty to coast over the try line in the 15th minute.

Three minutes later Bann reduced the deficit to five points after Adam Doherty's break set up field position for the threequarters to put Porter in at the corner. The visitors produced another fine move from their own "22" which was halted only when left winger Josh Agnew was taken down 20 metres from the Nenagh line.

With an opposition player yellow-carded at a subsequent set piece, Bann had the chance to set up a 5-metre lineout. But the kick went dead and Nenagh attacked from the resulting scrum. Centre Derek Corcoran made a fine 40-metre break and with his pack in support, prop Cronan Gleeson crossed for his side's third try and a 15-5 interval scoreline.

If Stewart's form off the tee in the first half had been indifferent, with three failed conversion attempts, he eventually displayed his kicking skills eight minutes after the break with a wind-assisted penalty from all of 55 metres to extend his side's lead.

While Bann spent long periods after the break in their own territory, their defence was proving much more resilient. And on a couple of occasions they produced impressive field-length counterattacks, with hooker Peter Cromie and No 8 Stephen Irvine spearheading, which only foundered on poor handling deep in the Nenagh "22".

Bann needed a converted score to salvage a losing bonus point but instead it was Nenagh who picked up the bonus, with the Bann defence eventually succumbing to the pressure in the 77th minute as lock Kevin O'Flaherty took advantage of Stewart's blistering 45 metre run to cross for a try which the out-half bettered.

Soper was pleased with the way his side had fought back in the second half.

“We started the half really well and produced some excellent rugby, going through multiple phases on occasions. But then we dropped the ball or knocked on when we had the opportunity to score and that was the story of our game."

Bann's scrum was under severe pressure for much of the game but Soper played down the impact that had on the outcome.

“They had a very big pack and we were missing some of the guys who give us a bit of weight, but I thought the scrum was ok - I don't think that was really an issue. It was our catch-pass and some indifferent kicking that let us down. I can't fault the effort but we just weren't good enough today."

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