Galwegians travelled back to Connacht on Saturday with the four points they needed to take over top slot after a 7-11 win at Banbridge.
Their defence had to be at its best to keep at bay a Bann side that compensated for the absence of a number of regulars with a whole-hearted performance.
The homeside certainly had their chances to win with three kickable penalties missing the target. Ultimately, their failure to get any reward from a 15 minute encampment on the Galwegians line early in the second half proved just as costly. That spell included a 10 minute period when the visitors were reduced to 14 men, with out-half Ross Shaughnessy sin-binned.
Shaughnessy kicked the opening penalty and the out-half struck again on 25 minutes, capitalising on a charged down clearance kick to cross for a try, only to miss with the relatively easy conversion attempt. Full-back Greg Taylor initiated a promising counter-attack from the re-start but Bann infringed at a ruck eight metres out from the line to take the pressure off the visitors. Still it was the home side asking the questions and their efforts earned them two penalty shots at goal in the 31st and 34th minutes. But with neither finding the target Galwegians were able to take an eight point lead into the break.
They were to maintain that differential for just three minutes after the re-start. Bann’s hard-working winger Hugo Harbinson came in off the flank to take a good line and carry into the visitors’ 22. When the ball was re-cycled out-half Shandon Scott put in a delicate grubber kick and Harbinson was quickest to react, sprinting through to touchdown. Replacement winger Adam Doherty struck a fine conversion to reduce the deficit to a single point but he was unable to repeat the feat when offered a penalty opportunity six minutes later.
Replacement Ciaran Gaffney’s successful penalty kick in the 75th then eased his side further ahead and sealed the win for Galwegians. Possession belonged almost exclusively to the home side in the time remaining but the opposition’s defence was unrelenting, with their aggression driving Bann back to run the clock down.