CASHEL 26 BANBRIDGE 13
A third place finish in last season’s Division 2A of the All-Ireland League would have marked Banbridge out as being among the favourites to contest the promotion places this time around.
But just as two years ago, when they fell to newly promoted Cashel at the first hurdle, they again found the Tipperary side a tough nut to crack on their home turf.
It had all looked promising after the opening 40 minutes, during which Bann had deservedly opened up a 3-13 lead. But as quality possession dried up after the break the home side, with the benefit of an increasingly strong wind at their backs, began to dominate the exchanges, racking up 23 points without reply to lift the points.
Bann’s assistant coach Robert Ervine felt that the final score flattered the home side. “We played very well in the first half,” he said. “The ball was being presented well by the pack and the threequarters were looking sharp and incisive.
“But our lineout started to malfunction after the break and even when we did manage to work our way into the Cashel ‘22’, too often we gave away a penalty.”
Ian Porter’s early penalty from 35 metres gave his side the lead. Then the threequarters worked a neat move to put centre Miles O’Hagan in space. He chipped the cover defence and re-gathered the ball to go in for what proved to be Bann’s only try, with Porter’s conversion extending the gap to ten points.
A second Cashel penalty reduced the deficit. Then Bann were reduced to 14 men for a second time. The referee played advantage and Cashel scored a try before the yellow card was wielded, adding the conversion for good measure. This time Cashel took advantage of their numerical superiority to add a second try before Bann were back to full strength. Another Cashel penalty and third try denied Bann even the comfort of a losing bonus point to ease the long trek home.