Bann turn on power in first half blitz and take win over Nenagh

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

FOUR tries in a 20-minute first half blitz saw Banbridge pick up an early bonus point and put them on the way to a five-pointer over Nenagh.

Banbridge ...33
Nenagh ...25

After the previous weekend's win at Cashel, Bann coach Daniel Soper was bemoaning his team's inability to score tries despite creating the opportunities.

After a creaky opening quarter hour against the Tipperary visitors, however Bann turned on the power to cause devastation in the opposition ranks and open up a 26-6 lead from which Nenagh never fully recovered.

“We've been working on our attacking game since we lost at Highfield," said Soper after Saturday's match. "And you saw the result of that with a width and pace to our game that got its reward. It was a bit more like we were in the first half of the season."

With the wind at their backs Bann made a poor start, gifting Nenagh possession with three overkicks. And when Nenagh moved into home territory their out-half Clayton Stewart was able to capitalise on two penalty offences by kicking his side into a six-point lead.

Then, in the 16th minute the home scoring machine swung into action. Bann went through the phases following Jonny Little's half break and Andrew Magrath's long pass gave John Porter the opportunity to step inside the Nenagh defence and cross for the try which Magrath bettered off the tee.

Four minutes later, and with Nenagh reduced to 14 men via a yellow card for a high tackle, prop Stuart Cromie carried with surprising pace to set up a ruck close to the line, from which Stephen Irvine was able to force his way over. Magrath's conversion took the score to 14-6.

Magrath combined with Andrew Morrison to put Porter in space again, with only a last-ditch tackle stopping the winger picking up his second try. And Morrison went even closer to scoring on the opposite flank as Bann continued in the ascendancy.

But the home side was not to be denied and after Josh Cromie had fielded magnificently from a Nenagh box kick, Bann moved the ball wide from a lineout and full-back Adam Ervine dived between two defenders to touch down.

The Bann threequarters were benefiting from the slick service provided by scrum-half Ian Porter and it was the former Ulster pivot who initiated the bonus point try, dislodging the ball off a Nenagh player inside the home "22" before finding Morrison with a long pass. The centre ran 50 metres before finding John Porter with the pass that put the winger in under the posts, with Magrath converting.

“That second 20 minutes of the first half was excellent," said Soper. "The try that was most satisfying for me was the first one. In recent games we've had long periods on attack but come away without a score. We've worked on that and that score came after a sustained period with a lot of phases and we eventually found a way through."

As expected Nenagh started the second half with all guns blazing. But crucially the Bann defence held firm, with a superb Irvine 'steal' inside the "22" eventually lifting the siege and Nenagh were unable to breach the home line until the 68th minute.

By that time Bann had picked up a fifth score, with Little crossing after Bann had turned down a penalty opportunity to kick for a five metre lineout. Magrath again converted for a 33-6 lead on 65 minutes.

Three minutes later No 8 Lemaki Viapula forced his way over the Bann line to initiate a comeback which yielded further tries from Stewart and replacement prop John Coffey.

But with Stewart only converting two from three, Nenagh finished eight points in arrears, which left them pointless from the game and tied with their victors and Malone on 41 points from 13 games, four points behind pace-setters Highfield.

“Our defensive system is looking better," said Soper, "albeit the last 15 minutes was a bit shabby, I think we just switched off.

“But the pace we put on the game, moving their big guys around, our presentation at the breakdown and Ian's delivery all contributed to making that win happen. I'd like to think that performance will give everybody in the squad renewed enthusiasm and confidence going into the last five games.

“We need to maintain that form and our next outing at Harlequins gives us a chance to put in another attacking performance and pick up another five points."


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