Nenagh Ormond 14
BANBRIDGE produced another late, late show to snatch victory out of the grasp of visitors Nenagh in last weekend’s Ulster Bank League game.
A ferocious defensive display by the Tipperary side, together with the boot of out-half David Devaney, appeared to have the visitors on course for success as the game went into the dying minutes with them nursing an 11-14 lead.
Up to that point Bann had struggled, despite prolonged periods of possession, to breach the Nenagh defensive barrier, with just a pushover try, courtesy of their renowned scrummaging power, and two penalties to show for their efforts.
But they launched one final attack and when replacement flanker Mark Wilson managed to off-load out of a two-man tackle, Michael Cromie found himself in space 18 metres out. With the cover defence closing the burly prop had enough pace, and energy, to make the line to the noisy delight, and undoubted relief, of the Rifle Park fans.
Play re-started, but a Nenagh knock-on created the last set play and when the ball emerged from the scrum Neville Farr’s cross-field kick was helped into touch by Ashley Finlay to end the game.
The pattern of the match was set in the opening 10 minutes when Bann encamped in the visitors’ half and frequently close to the try line. Going through multiple phases they tested the Nenagh defence right across the pitch, only to find it unyielding until a knock-on allowed the visitors a temporary respite. Again Bann attacked but the outcome was the same, only this time Bann were penalised and Nenagh were able to kick their way into home territory for the first time in the match.
Midway through the half a Bann fumble at the base of a ruck produced a counter-attack which almost saw Nenagh winger Steve Harvey in at the left corner flag. As the pressure was maintained Bann were penalised five metres out. Play was halted for a couple of minutes while Farr received attention for a knock and when the game re-started Devaney put in a neat cross-field kick for Ger Harmse. The tall winger out-jumped Stephen Cowan to knock the ball back and his full-back Steve Carey picked up and set it down over the line for the opening score of the game. Devaney was just off-target with the conversion.
Jonny Little did find a gap in the Nenagh midfield defence, his 30 metre run taking play inside the visitors’ 22. But with support slow to arrive he was penalised for holding on at the tackle and Nenagh were able to avert the danger.
Towards the end of the first half the Bann scrum began to get the upper hand at the set piece and when they won ball against the head, Shandon Scott, filling the No 10 shirt in the absence of Robin Thompson, made Nenagh pay for an infringement with a successful penalty kick.
The visitors finished the half strongly and only some sharp defensive work by Bann centre Andrew Morrison prevented a second try after an attempted clearance kick was charged down.
However Devaney stretched their lead in the first minute of the second half, his 45 metre kick finding the target after Bann had been penalised at the re-start.
Scott failed with a chance to redress the balance three minutes later, his penalty shot drifting just outside the post, but Bann were beginning to dominate the exchanges and Little was hauled down just short of the try line. As the Nenagh scrum began to buckle under the pressure Bann won another penalty which was kicked to the corner for a 5-metre lineout, but there was no let-up in the intensity of the tackling as Nenagh defended their line fiercely.
Prop Fergal Brislane was yellow-carded in the 57th minute for a high tackle on Cromie as Bann continued to pose all the questions. This time Scott’s kick bisected the posts to reduce the deficit to 6-8. And when the Bann pack won a 5-metre scrum four minutes later, Nenagh were pushed steadily back over their line, allowing No 8 Dale Carson to touch down.
Bann had now edged three points in front, but it was Nenagh’s turn to enjoy a period of possession and Devaney made no mistake with penalties in the 69th and 73rd minutes as Bann’s discipline began to break down.
Then came that final flurry of activity and Bann’s second try for a win which keeps them on course for a top five finish. Instonians are next up for Bann and with the Belfast side having shipped seven tries at Greystones in their first defeat of the season, it would be a foolish man who would wager any money on the outcome of Saturday’s game at Shaw’s Bridge.
Bann have just recorded the one AIL win over their Belfast rivals since they graduated to senior rugby. A second success this Saturday would leave them well-placed to claim one of the four automatic promotion slots. But they will need to improve on elements of their game – and they can be sure that Instonians will want to bounce back from that stunner at Greystones and re-claim top spot in Division Three.