Disciplined Bann secure win in All Ireland League

Banbridge in action during their victory over Barnhall. Pic: Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-265PB
Banbridge in action during their victory over Barnhall. Pic: Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-265PB

A disciplined, focused performance saw Banbridge pick up the second win of their All-Ireland League campaign on Saturday at Rifle Park.

Barnhall had started the day in second place in Division 2A but there was no question mark over the home side’s right to the four points after a display that coach Daniel Soper said was very satisfying.

RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall � Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-266PB

RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall � Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-266PB

“I’m very pleased for the guys,” he said afterwards. “They’ve had a tough few weeks, coming out on the wrong side of very close games.

“They defended exceptionally well, especially in the first half when Barnhall had us under a lot of pressure.

“But we only conceded three penalties in those first 40 minutes and two of those were in attacking positions so that was pretty pleasing.”

Bann were certainly on the rack in the opening 10 minutes when Barnhall set up shop in home territory.

RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall � Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-267PB

RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall � Paul Byrne Photography INBL1446-267PB

But a cast-iron defence kept the line intact and that discipline to which Soper referred ensured that Bann lifted the siege with the opposition still pointless.

A loose Barnhall pass gave Adam Ervine, Stephen Irvine and John Porter the chance to take play into the opposition half where Bann were able to test the Barnhall defence.

Porter almost breached the defence before Adam Doherty just failed to hold what would have been a try-scoring pass.

The pressure eventually told, with Aaron Kennedy kicking penalties in the 22nd and 25th minutes to put a six point gap between the sides.

Bann continued in the ascendancy, even winning a lineout on the opposition throw to initiate another attack in the 32nd minute. But Barnhall centre Fionn Higgins intercepted on halfway and streaked clear to touch down under the posts, leaving Simon Gillespie to add the extras for a 6-7 lead.

Five minutes later a rare lapse in the home defence allowed Barnhall No 8 Paul Nalty to run in from the “22” for his team’s second try, Gillespie again slotting over the conversion.

The 6-14 scoreline was anything but a reflection of the exchanges and fortunately for Bann they were able to redress that before the interval, with Doherty rounding off with a try in the right hand corner after slick handling by the home threequarters.

Kennedy’s excellent conversion left his side a single point in arrears.

Bann continued to dominate territory at the start of the second half but the Barnhall defence was proving resilient.

Kennedy had the chance to kick his side into the lead but bizarrely, given his earlier success with the boot, his penalty attempt from in front of the posts hit an upright and bounced back infield.

The loss of No 8 Colin Bickerstaff with an ankle injury in the 56th minute was a blow for the home side but Barnhall then lost Nalty to a yellow card and this time Kennedy found the target with the resulting penalty.

The clinching score came in the 67th minute, after Barnhall had knocked on a ‘Garryowen’.

Porter got possession just inside the visitors’ “22” and he weaved and shimmied his way past a number of covering defenders to cross for a try which Kennedy bettered.

Gillespie kicked a penalty five minutes from time to give his team hope of retrieving the situation, but they looked no more like breaking down the home defence in the closing stages than they had at any point in the second half, but at least it allowed them to head home with a losing bonus point.

Soper reflected on a job well done. “We switched off in the game at Derry and our defensive system fell apart. Today we limited Barnhall to one intercept try and another through a rare blunder.

“We have a couple of weeks off now which the guys can enjoy on the back of a good performance.

“It was tough losing Colly (Bickerstaff) but hopefully by the Skerries game we’ll have three more forwards returning, Chris Allen, Nico Vorster and Ryan Patterson.

“So we can look forward to that one and hopefully improving our league position.”