BANBRIDGE’S poor post-Christmas form continued as they slumped to a fourth successive defeat and their second in the All-Ireland League after heading into the holiday break as early season pace-setters.
For the first time in this season’s AIL campaign they failed to register a try, a testimony to a robust Corinthians defence whose determination to withstand Bann’s early second half onslaught proved crucial to the outcome.
As in the previous week’s encounter with Terenure, Bann had to play second fiddle in the opening half as the opposition enjoyed long periods of possession. Despite that, the interval approached with the home side just 0-8 in arrears, with the only try emanating from a Bann penalty which had failed to find its touchline target. Corinthians full-back Conor Murphy collected just inside his 10 metre line and linked with his threequarters to put Darin Classen in possession outside the Bann “22”, with the winger brushing aside the efforts of the cover defence to cross the try line.
Out-half Mick O’Flynn failed with his attempt to add the conversion points, but his penalty a few minutes later increased his side’s advantage to eight points, an interval differential with which the home side would have been content given the balance of play. But just as against Terenure the previous Saturday Bann conceded a second try just before the break. They had been on the rack for some five minutes when eventually centre James Buckley broke through from close range to touch down in the corner, with O’Flynn’s failed conversion attempt immediately followed by the half-time whistle.
A successful 42 metre penalty from scrum-half Ian Porter two minutes after the break gave Bann the boost they needed and for the next eight minutes they pummelled the Corinthians line. A neat inside flip pass from Porter put Simon McKinstry in space but the skipper was hauled down six metres short of the try line.
With Corinthians infringing in their efforts to keep their line intact, Bann won successive penalties but neither Stephen Irvines’s quick tap nor the five metre lineout option from the second yielded the outcome the home side needed. And when Corinthians hacked clear, O’Flynn was only just denied his side’s third try following a chip and chase into the Bann in-goal area.
Corinthians then knocked on behind the try line, but John Porter’s attempt to run the ball out of defence ended in a dropped pass and Corinthians benefited from the advantage played by the match official to put replacement Finlay Bealham in under the posts, with O’Flynn adding the simple conversion.
Ian Porter doubled the home team’s tally with a penalty virtually from the re-start, but there was to be no miracle comeback as Corinthians finished the stronger, deservedly claiming the bonus point when skipper Finn Gormley powered his way past a faltering defence with ten minutes remaining.
Bann will now look to their up-coming home game against Instonians in the Ulster League to get back to winning ways before they travel to the Maiden City on 16th February to tackle City of Derry in the AIL.