ON a great day for running rugby Bann Thirds took the field at home against a strong Clogher Valley outfit.
Having lost heavily away to Ballynahinch on their first outing of the season, Bann were keen to make amends.
The visitors started brightly putting Bann under considerable pressure but the home defence initially held up well. However under constant pressure from the Clogher backs Bann eventually conceded an unconverted try in the corner. Bann rallied well in response to this and won a series of penalties. Despite striking the ball very well, full-back Marc Stevenson was unlucky not to convert his first two opportunities.
However, when Bann kept pressurising the Clogher line, Viljoen was able to slot over a drop goal to keep Bann in touch. Stevenson then got the opportunity to make amends with his third penalty attempt, and he made no mistake, taking the three points to give his team the interval lead.
Captain Viljoen and pack leader Andy Davidson gave the team a rallying talk at half-time and Bann came out in the second half dominating most phases of the game. Ross Semple, in his new position of loose head prop, continually drove the opposition off the ball at scrum time, ably assisted by the experienced and hard working Barney McKevitt and Gareth Briggs.
Stevie Gordon and Nathan Martin did well in the lineout while the dynamic back-row of Michael McKee, Matthew Bird and Davidson kept the pressure on Clogher both in attack and defence.
When Davidson scored Bann’s try, early in the second half, it was just reward for their hard work. Scrum half Cowan had kept the ball moving and the hard hitting centre partnership of Willie Taylor and Matthew Kerr punched holes in the opposition defence.
With the wind behind Clogher in the second half they chose to kick away a lot of their possession. Bann’s big back three of Marc Stevenson, Peter Irvine and Stuart Faulkner relished the opportunity to run the ball back at them. When skipper Viljoen converted another penalty to leave the score 14-5 in Bann’s favour, it seemed that the first victory of the season was assured for the home side. However, Clogher hadn’t agreed to that, and, probably due as much to Bann mistakes as their own endeavour, Clogher scored their second try, which they converted to reduce the points differential to two.
With the game on the blow, and the referee playing an eighth minute of injury time, spectators’ finger nails were down to the quick as Clogher threw everything at Bann to try to snatch a late win.
But the determined home side held out, Viljoen kicked the ball dead, and man of the match Andy Davidson led the victorious home team off the pitch.
There was great relief all round, particularly when the team heard that their victory completed a Bann Blitz (all senior teams winning their matches).
There is no game next Saturday as the Blue Sox Touring side head to Leeds, but Team Manager Andy Duke would remind those available that training will continue on Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, and all are welcome.