Win secured by good defensive work.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

IN FRONT of their biggest home crowd for many seasons, Banbridge turned over their county rivals to retain their unbeaten record in the Ulster Bank League and claim second place in the Division 1B table.


And few, if any, from among the large travelling support would have denied that the win went to the better team on the day.

Bann certainly looked the slicker of the outfits, although Ballynahinch's cause was not helped by two yellow cards, with both home tries coming when the opposition was reduced to 14 men.

Bann coach Daniel Soper attributed his side's success in no small part to their defensive work.

"We're showing great composure and control in defence," he said after the game.

"We 're not giving away penalties that give the opposition an easy foothold in our half, so that's pretty pleasing. We've shipped some points in some games but I think our defence is getting better. When teams are trying to build phases against us we 're actually quite comfortable in defence."

That quality defence was most evident in the aftermath of Andrew Morrison's opening try for the home side, scored while 'Hinch prop Jonny Simpson was kicking his heels in 'the bin'. The centre had finished off after Robin Sinton's 55 metre run had set up a ruck inside the 'Hinch "22".

Ian Porter fed Morrison and he brushed off a tackle to run behind for a try which Porter bettered with 13 minutes played.

Ballynahinch's response was immediate as they set up camp in and around the home "22". Phase after phase followed but when Bann's defence had resisted every thrust that came their way, 'Hinch out-half Jonny McPhillips was reduced to putting in a speculative grubber which ran into touch in goal.

Porter's 23rd minute penalty edged his side further ahead but after Peter Cromie's blistering run had forced 'Hinch to concede another penalty, the pivot saw his effort off the tee drift wide.

Stuart Morrow's interception looked to have set him off on a 70 metre run to the Bann line, but the referee had blown for an early tackle and scrum-half Blane McIlroy became the second 'Hinch player to take a 10 minute break from the action.

Four minutes into the second half Bann picked up their second try. Forwards Michael Cromie and Stephen Irvine had carried strongly to take play into the opposition's half. When the ball was moved from the ruck Morrison hared through a gap, drawing the last 'Hinch defender to put Conor Field in for the try, which Porter converted.

It was going to take an inspired piece of play to break down the home defence and McPhilips produced it just short of the hour, dummying and then slicing between two home players to set off on a 40-metre run to the posts, leaving a couple more flat-footed defenders in his wake.

His conversion and a successful penalty shot on 74 minutes left his side needing a converted try to tie the scores. But Peter Cromie's work at a ruck won Porter another shot at the posts and he obliged to put 10 points between the sides, a gap 'Hinch couldn't close, even in the six minutes of injury time played.

"Our kick-chase wasn't brilliant today - it was probably better in the second half than in the first," said Soper. "That's when we looked vulnerable today, so it's something we'll have to work on."

Bann took crucial lineouts against the throw when 'Hinch were in strong attacking positions and Soper was naturally pleased with that aspect of the game. "Our lineout was good - with Greg (Jones) coming in alongside Chris (Allen) and Robin (Sinton) it gives us more options and I thought the guys were on top of their game today.

It gave us a good platform to get going." With Michael Lowry unavailable, Soper had gambled by picking Josh Cromie at out-half, the first time the young player, normally a replacement scrum-half behind Porter, had filled the 10 shirt. But the gamble paid off handsomely as Cromie picked up the man-of-match award.

"It was such a huge ask for Josh to play out of position but I could see his skill set was probably the strongest of all the options we had.

"We know how tough he is, he defends well and he knows our patterns and the way we're trying to play and he did an exceptional job out there today."

Bann travel to play league leaders Shannon in Limerick this weekend and Soper said that the players were looking forward to the challenge.

"It's a great opportunity to go and play Shannon down there and I know the players are excited about it. So far this season they've stepped up to each challenge.

At the moment we're playing well and we'll go there with a bit of confidence."


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