Bann edge closer to safety with Highfield win

A try each either side of half-time from wingers John Porter and Hugo Harbinson brought Banbridge their fifth All-Ireland League win and edged them closer to mid-table security.

Playing with slope and wind advantage in the first half, the visitors had been rocked by a Ben Murphy try in the 18th minute, the Highfield winger having finished off a well-constructed move to give his side a five point lead.

Bann hit back four minutes later when, following good work from Stephen Irvine and Peter Cromie, Chris Allen dummied and forced his way past three defenders to touch down at the posts, with Ian Porter’s conversion giving his side a slender lead.

The home side would no doubt have been content to go into the second half on a 5-7 score-line but Bann struck again from the last play of the half. Porter’s pass off a ruck on the home side’s 10 metre line found Cromie on the left flank. The hooker accelerated out of the attempted tackle of Highfield out-half Mike O’Flynn and linked on the “22” with Adam Doherty, whose well-timed pass sent John Porter racing unopposed to the try line, with brother Ian adding the conversion points.

The nine point cushion afforded by that late score looked vulnerable going into the second half but Bann struck again from virtually the opening play of the second period. Replacement centre Jonny Little punched through from a set scrum inside the Bann half and quick ruck ball allowed the visiting threequarters to attack down the left flank. Out-half Shandon Scott put in a teasing grubber as the defence closed in and Harbinson’s searing pace saw him win the race to the ball, with his momentum taking him over the try line.

Highfield mounted a prolonged attack on the visitors’ line and after Bann had been numerically disadvantaged by Allen’s yellow card for a technical offence, scrum half Kevin Foyle found a gap to race in for his team’s second try, with Ian O’Donoghue’s conversion reducing the deficit to a single score.

With 27 minutes left on the clock it seemed inevitable that Highfield would close the gap further. But despite the best efforts of skipper David Kelly, whose bulldozing runs set up several good attacking positions for his team, Highfield were unable to add the finishing touches against a Bann side clearly determined to make their journey to Cork worthwhile.

Bann travel to Munster again this weekend, with Bruff providing the opposition in a game which had to be re-arranged when the ground was deemed unplayable three weeks ago. The Limerick side are currently propping up the table but Bann have suffered defeat in each of their previous three visits so they will take nothing for granted against a side battling to survive in Division 2A.