BANBRIDGE suffered their fourth All-Ireland League defeat in spite of scoring four tries at Judges Road on Saturday.
In between Bann’s bright opening quarter, which yielded two tries, and the final ten minutes, when they picked up another brace, City of Derry scored four of their own. And with out-half Richard McCarter slotting over three conversions and three penalties, the home side picked up maximum points for their efforts.
It was an outcome that looked unlikely in the opening exchanges as Bann looked much more threatening in attack. Matthew McDonald’s intrusion into the line from the blindside wing sliced open the Derry defence in the third minute but with support arriving too slowly Bann were penalised at the tackle that followed.
The home side looked to have weathered the early storm but, when trying to put together an attack of their own, a midfield pass was intercepted by Adam Doherty on half-way. The young out-half set off for the posts with the Derry threequarters in hot pursuit but he just held them off to touch down for the opening score, with Ian Porter’s attempted conversion drifting wide.
Bann’s second try was the equal of any they have scored this season. Initiated by centre Andrew Morrison just inside his own half, it was carried on by Jonny Graham and Doherty. Two quick rucks later Doherty found Simon McKinstry in support 12 metres out and the skipper linked with Dale Carson via Gregg Taylor to put the flanker in at the corner flag.
A loose crossfield kick gave Derry the opportunity to respond, with centre Chris Barber collecting on half-way and winning the race to his chip kick behind the covering defence for the try which McCarter converted.
The home out-half was off-target with a penalty attempt on 33 minutes but five minutes later found the mark to level the scores.
Bann won a penalty from the re-start and Porter had a shot at goal which the match officials controversially decided had gone wide. Bann infringed from the long drop-out, were marched back 10 metres for back-chat and McCarter’s successful kick, the last of the half, saw his side take a 13-10 lead into the break.
Four minutes into the second half Derry emptied their bench and it was replacement full-back Peter Henderson who grabbed their second try. Bann failed to retain lineout ball and when a testing kick was put into the Bann in-goal area, Henderson just managed to effect the touchdown before the ball went dead, his momentum taking him crashing into the advertising boards.
Over-enthusiastic rucking earned McKinstry a yellow card on 62 minutes and Derry set up good field position from the kick. Momentum was maintained from the lineout and when the ruck ball came to McCarter on Bann’s “22” the out-half found a gap in the defence as wide as Guildhall Square! He romped home under the posts and added the extras to open up a 20 point gap between the sides.
Any forlorn hopes that Bann might have harboured about retrieving the situation were dashed almost immediately by Derry’s fourth try. If Bann’s second try was classic, this one was comedic, with Bann’s failure to clear their lines leading to a series of dropped balls and mis-fields before Derry skipper David Funston grabbed the ball and dived in at the corner.
Eight minutes from the end Bann hooker Jonny Weir crossed the Derry line from the front of a lineout and brother David, the replacement prop, forced his way over from close range at the death, with Porter adding the conversion.
Those two efforts won Bann the bonus point that just keeps them in fourth place ahead of Derry and Galwegians in Division 2A. Saturday’s home game against Midleton now becomes a must-win for the Rifle Park side if they are to hold onto their top-four slot.