Bann collapse to festive defeat after a bright start at home to Ballymena

Banbridge ended 2014 on a low note with this defeat to Ballymena in the Ulster League. INBL1446-267pb
Banbridge ended 2014 on a low note with this defeat to Ballymena in the Ulster League. INBL1446-267pb

Nine points ahead after 15 minutes play in this Ulster League game, Banbridge failed to build on their early advantage and by the final whistle had conceded four tries without reply.

Their dominance of the opening exchanges saw Bann win three penalties, each of which full-back Adam Doherty converted with aplomb to give his side a lead which they held until the final minute of the first half.

It took Ballymena half an hour to register their first points, a patient build-up eventually affording No 8 Matthew Rea the chance to open his side’s account with a try which Richard McMaster converted.

On the stroke of half-time, Bann scrum-half Jason Gribbon picked up a yellow card after visitors’ centre James Beattie had sliced through the Bann midfield to set up a threatening ruck under the posts. McMaster converted to give his side a single point lead at the break.

Both sides had started the game minus a number of first-choice players and as the replacements were rolled out over the second half, Ballymena proved to have the greater strength in depth as they began to dominate for long periods.

However, it was from Bann’s mistakes that the visitors capitalised to add tries in the 50th and 52nd minutes. A charged down kick forced Bann centre Andrew Morrison to make a last-ditch try-saving tackle. But the visitors re-cycled and when the ball was transferred to the right flank, full-back Tim Small found an unimpeded run to the line.

Two minutes later, Ballymena picked up a knock-on from an unsecured Garryowen and winger Jordan Foster crawled over in the corner after two attempted tackles had merely slowed rather than halted his progress. McMaster was on target with the touchline conversion.

Bann never looked like recovering from those blows and when Ballymena put the pressure on at scrum time with five minutes remaining, after a number of re-sets replacement Darryl Montgomery went in for the inevitable try to earn his side a deserved bonus point.