Banbridge 15 Thomond 18
A last-minute try from flanker Stephen Irvine salvaged a point for Banbridge from a game which the players know should have been won.
Assistant coach Robert Ervine said he was disappointed with the result but couldn’t criticise his team for effort. “Thomond came with a very big side but we more than matched them in terms of intensity and commitment,” he said after the game.
“Going into the second half just three points down and then surviving a long period of pressure on our line – well, I thought at that stage the pendulum was swinging our way. But then to concede a soft try after all that effort was really disappointing.”
That soft try may have been facilitated by indifferent defensive work, but in running in from the halfway line, Thomond winger Dara O’Neill showed considerable verve and tenacity as he weaved and barged his way through a phalanx of defenders to score.
The unconverted try put two scores between the teams and although Bann edged the exchanges in the final quarter of the game, Bann had to settle for that solitary point.
Adam Doherty and Thomond’s Rory Collins had exchanged early penalties and when the latter retired injured, Ben Sargent kicked the visitors into a 3-6 lead. A concerted attack on the home line created space on Thomond’s right flank and full-back Jamie McGarry took a long pass to cross out wide, with Sargent adding the testing conversion.
But Bann were right back in it after good carries from Adam Ervine, Jonny Graham and Stuart Cromie led to Irvine going in for a try from close range, with Doherty adding the conversion for a 10-13 interval score.
The big Thomond pack pummelled at Bann’s line repeatedly at the start of the second half, but Bann’s defence resisted admirably until Jonny Little broke out to relieve the pressure. There was no sign of danger when O’Neill collected a loose ball on halfway to run in for that game-changing score.
But Bann hit back immediately with a break from replacement wing Miles O’Hagan, carried on by Andrew Morrison almost putting Peter Cromie in for a try. Bann won a penalty at the ruck and from the lineout that followed Cromie was almost in again, only to be pulled up short by a high tackle which earned Thomond scrum-half Fiach O’Loughlin 10 minutes in the bin.
Thomond cleared the imminent danger when Bann infringed at a lineout but the home side resumed on the offensive and the impressive Morrison put in another scything run only for his final pass to the supporting Aaron Kennedy failing to find its target.
The final minutes were spent in the visitors’ ‘22’ and after Doherty had been hauled down short of the line Bann won a penalty, Thomond had a third player yellow-carded and Irvine went in to earn the point.
“The margins in this Division are very narrow,” commented coach Ervine.
“We’ve come out on the wrong side of two very close results in our last two games, so we know we’re not far away. But there’s work to be done on a number of aspects of our game to add that small percentage improvement which will hopefully make all the difference.”