Bann Fourths snatch late comeback victory

There is a busy schedule of rugby fixtures in Limerick this weekend
There is a busy schedule of rugby fixtures in Limerick this weekend

A try eight minutes from the end earned Bann Fourths a 17-15 win that lifts them into second place in Section Six of the Junior League.

It had looked ominous for the visitors in the opening quarter as poor first-up tackling had allowed Holywood to take a 12-0 lead through two tries and a conversion.

The second of those had come after Bann won a penalty just inside the home 22. In the build-up to that move, out-half Francois Viljoen had taken a knock that forced him to retire from the action.

The attempted kick to the corner to set up an attacking lineout went dead, Holywood attacked from the 22 drop-out and picked up their second touchdown.

Bann began to win more of the ball and from a lineout 15 metres out, lock Paul Cairns took a tap-down and charged through a breach in the Holywood defence only to be stopped two metres short.

Support arrived quickly and when Cairns’ second row partner Jonny Mullan got possession, he proved unstoppable from close range. Fortunately Viljoen had by then returned to the fray as he stepped up to strike over the conversion from wide on the right.

Impressive No 8 Neal Cochrane collected the re-start and ran it back at the opposition from his own 22. Mullan, Jerry Ramsey and Adam Copes all handled in a sparkling move before Cairns was bundled into touch outside the home 22. But Bann won a penalty from the subsequent play and Viljoen split the posts to leave his side just 12-10 in arrears at the break.

Bann dominated exchanges in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but the Holywood defence was proving difficult to break down. And when the home side broke out, they won a penalty at the other end which was converted to extend the differential to five points.

The visitors had much the better scoring chances for the next 20 minutes although it did take a superb cover tackle from Cairns to prevent what looked like a certain third Holywood try.

But Bann resumed on the offensive, still looking for that piece of inspiration which would turn their undoubted territorial edge into points on the board. It came from Paul McNally, who had distinguished himself throughout the game with a series of crunching tackles.

When Holywood failed to control a ball at the base of a scrum 10 metres out from their own line the Bann flanker pounced to gather and force his way over for the try that tied the scores.

Viljoen’s conversion was again on target, edging his side ahead with eight minutes left. The out-half fluffed an easier penalty chance with virtually the last kick of the game but that was quickly forgotten by his team-mates as they celebrated a well-earned success against a Holywood side that had started the day above them in the table.