Depleted U19s recover from early setback
Bann U19s 31
Ards U19s 8
BANN U19s played their third game in the newly re-structured league on Wednesday night without a few key players.
Jonathan Murphy and Charles Gallagher returned from their successful trip to France with the Irish U18 squad with injuries, Murphy with a hip niggle and Gallagher with a knock to the ankle. Prop Jonny Harris injured his ankle in a senior game the previous Saturday and flanker Matthew Bird had a night in hospital with food poisoning.
So U17 players Daryl Fitzpatrick, James McCready and Stuart Cairns stepped up to this higher level and full-back David Adamson filled the final gap in the pack.
The pack had a one hour training session together the night before but the lack of experience showed immediately as Ards crossed the line in the second minute after a charged down kick.
Captain Sam Boyd made sure his players’ heads did not go down as he led from the front with a charging run up the field. The lighter home pack hassled the opposition well and quick ruck ball led to out-half Andrew Morrison running through a gap from 30 metres out to score under the posts. Mark Doherty converted.
But right from the kick off the ball was dropped and a penalty given away which the Ards out-half slotted over to give them a single point advantage after 20 minutes. The home team again battled their way into the Ards half and another turnover ball from the pack gave Doherty the ball he relishes as he found a gap between forwards and backs to run in for Bann’s second try.
With centres Simon Adamson and Owen Gallagher beginning to gel after only their third game together, the young team picked holes in the Ards defence which widened enough for the returning Clark McAllister to touch down under the posts. This was the first game back for the purple-rinsed full-back after his recovery from a shoulder injury sustained playing senior rugby. Doherty again converted.
The score at half-time was 19-8 to Banbridge but it didn’t hide the fact that unforced errors were giving the opposition valuable possession and territory. Ten minutes into the second half the Bann pack lost possession when in a good attacking position. But the attempted clearance was charged down and Cairns, playing his first game for the U19’s, rose the highest to catch the ball and ground it for his team’s fourth try, with Doherty kicking a great conversion from the corner.
Changes were then made as Matthew Copes, Chris Leathem, Chris Stevenson and Joshua Watson took to the field. With five minutes remaining the ball was passed out the back line and Leathem, ignoring the call from young Watson for a pass, scored on his return to the youth ranks from All-Ireland League duty.
First XV try-scoring sensation Stephen Irvine was unable to play due to illness but it was hoped he would recover for Saturday and the visit of Ballynahinch.
The coaches were none too happy with the performance but with the team being thrown together the night before due to injury, a win was all that could be hoped for, thus maintaining the push for league honours. With lock Nathan Martin also hoping to return from injury in the next few weeks, light is appearing at the end of the tunnel after a mid-season injury crisis.