Almost lost lead in last two minutes

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Almost lost lead in last two minutes thumbnailStuart Cromie and his fellow forwards lead Banbridge into the scrum against Cashel RFC at Rifle Park.

BANBRIDGE came within two minutes of losing their second Ulster Bank All-Ireland League game in a row.


Having trailed Cashel since the visitors' 16th minute try, they threw everything into a final assault on the opposition line and Stephen Irvine forced his way over for the equalising try, with Aaron Kennedy's controversial conversion securing the win for his side.

Coach Daniel Soper was quick to admit that on the day his side had used their "get out of jail free card" to get the win.

“We were a bit lucky but we got better as the game went on. There's still too many basic fundamental things that just aren't going well, just too many things that aren't at the standard that we know we can get to. However, last year we lost a couple of games in similar circumstances so we've got one back.

“The scrum improved as the game went on - James McCrum made a big impact off the bench and when we were allowed to tap and go at the penalties we looked good. But some of our decision-making and execution wasn't quite what we want."

Despite no wind to influence proceedings, the teams took turns at controlling play, with Cashel pre-eminent in the first half and Bann on top after the break. Indeed such was the Tipperary side's dominance over the first 40 minutes Bann could have had no complaint had they gone into the interval three tries down.

The big Cashel pack was solid at the set scrum and unlike Bann they won every lineout ball on their own throw.

And it was from a throw-in close to the home line that their pack drove relentlessly at the try line, with prop Mike Kelly touching down for the try that went unconverted.

Bann had only been able to make a single excursion into the opposition "22" in the opening quarter of the game and for much of the remainder of the half they were stretched to prevent Cashel adding to that score.

Right winger Andrew Wallace almost got on the end of a grubber kick as it rolled tantalisingly close to the try line, only to be foiled by the speed of full-back Adam Ervine, who was later forced to retire with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Conor Field.

And No 8 James Ryan might have forced his way over off one of a series of 5-metre scrums as the Bann defence started to creak ominously, but eventually Bann won a penalty to relieve the pressure.

Bann's play at the start of the second half suggested they wouldn't be long overhauling the visitors. Irvine's strong run created good field position for winger, John Porter to put in a mazy run that was stopped deep inside the Cashel "22". Then centre Jonny Little charged down an attempted clearance only to lose the race to the ball as it ran into the in-goal area and Irvine was almost over after Bann had tapped a free close to the line.

Three lineouts close to the Cashel line should have yielded a reward but on each occasion Bann's lineout let them down. And when Field was tap tackled after a dazzling run had appeared to take him clean through the Cashel ranks, it appeared that the visitors would hold on.

Then came that late flurry of frenzied activity in the Cashel "22". A sequence of scrum - penalty - scrum - penalty followed and fittingly, given his outstanding carrying throughout the game, Irvine barged his way over.

Kennedy's kick drifted wide but when the referee ordered that the kick be re-taken because of some verbals from the visitors' ranks, the scrum-half slotted between the posts at the second attempt to the utter dismay of the Cashel players and coaches.

The game did restart but Bann secured the drop out and kicked out of play for the match official to blow the final whistle.

Assistant Coach Simon McKinstry said that he thought the Bann forwards had played poorly by their own high standards. Meanwhile Soper was looking forward to Saturday's Senior Cup semi-final against Ballynahinch.

“It will be a different focus away from the league which will be good. Hopefully we'll put in a good performance on Saturday against our neighbours."


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