Banbridge take win from Dolphin in gruelling game.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Banbridge take win from Dolphin in gruelling game. thumbnail Banbridge work hard to take the win, beating Dolphin by five points.

A WET, wintry Irish Independent Park was the setting for Banbridge's 10th Ulster Bank League game of the season.


Having squeezed home against Dolphin on home territory the previous weekend, the Rifle Park lads knew they would have to front up if they were to repeat the victory in the return fixture in Cork.

As expected, they were made to fight for every point but in the end they had done enough, just, to record a seventh AIL league win.

Coach Daniel Soper was honest enough to admit that his side had been fortunate to win both games.

"Dolphin is a very competitive side - their league position is not a fair reflection of their ability," he said after the game.

"But I thought we put in a much improved performance.

Our set piece work was much better and we defended very well for long periods when we were under pressure." Dolphin were penalised in the opening minute, allowing Bann skipper, Ian Porter to kick his side into a three point lead.

And when Adam Doherty was taken out following his chip into the home "22", Porter doubled his side's advantage off the tee with 14 minutes played.

But three minutes later the influential scrumhalf had to retire injured, forcing Bann to re-jig their back line, with Josh Cromie taking over at pivot and Ben Carson coming off the bench to fill the No 10 position.

Barry Keeshan pulled back three points for the home side with a successful penalty kick in the 22nd minute after mishandling in the Bann ranks had caused an infringement.

Bann were still trying to stretch the Dolphin defence and despite the conditions put together a fine move, with slick handling almost putting them in at the corner.

But the referee had seen an earlier midfield infringement and Doherty stroked over his side's third penalty for a 9-3 lead.

There was no further scoring before the break despite Josh Cromie's 55-metre run down the narrow side, with John Porter just failing to get his pass away with the line beckoning.

Dolphin dominated the third quarter, kicking astutely and using their strong pack to keep Bann contained in their own half.

Keeshan's penalty effort on 51 minutes came off an upright but Bann knocked on to give the home side a five metre scrum.

The pressure was relentless and eventually the defence cracked, with flanker Barry Fitzgerald crossing midway out for a try that Keeshan couldn't better off the tee.

As the game went into the final quarter it was still the home side calling the shots and a drop goal attempt went just wide of the uprights.

But Bann did well to retrieve the ball from the drop-out re-start. Lock Matthew Laird picked up the ruck ball and his storming 40 metre run took play into the Dolphin "22" for the first time since the interval.

The Bann forwards then went through the phases, taking play close to the line and prop Stuart Cromie finished off with a try close to the posts.

Doherty's conversion took the score to 8-16 with 13 minutes remaining. Keeshan's penalty made it a one-score game with no minutes left on the clock, but Bann had enough nous to see the game out without offering the opposition a serious scoring opportunity.

Soper was particularly pleased with the result given that he was without any of the club's nine Ulster Academy and Development players.

"I think we showed that we are building strength in depth. Richard Graham played his part in a much improved forward performance and Matthew Laird was simply excellent.

"It was certainly a big blow losing Ian (Porter) as he has been such a massive influence with his kicking, distribution and game management.

"But Josh (Cromie) slotted back in at 9 and I though Ben Carson did well at out-half. And Stuart Cromie had a full game today and deserved that try for all his hard work round the pitch.

"We go into the Christmas break now with 34 points from 10 games, which I think is beyond anyone's expectations.

"It's been a gruelling 10 games so the players will enjoy a short break before we get back to the action."


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