Banbridge still searching for first All-Ireland League point

BANBRIDGE 17 ST MARY’S 29

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 11:07 am

BANBRIDGE 17 ST MARY’S 29

Banbridge RFC are still searching for their first All-Ireland League point of the season after going down to a third successive defeat in last Saturday’s home game.

Bann coach Mark McDowell admitted that another poor start, during which his team shipped two tries in 14 minutes, left them fighting an uphill battle.

Banbridge RFC are still searching for their first All-Ireland League point of the season after going down to a third successive defeat. Bann coach Mark McDowell admitted that another poor start, during which his team shipped two tries in 14 minutes, left them fighting an uphill battle.

McDowell said: “I thought that for a period midway through the second half we played our best rugby of the season. But there are no poor teams in this league, and Mary’s are probably one of the better ones, and we made it so hard for ourselves after conceding those early scores.”

St Mary’s carved open the home defence in the eight minute to put right winger Matt Timmons in for the opening but unconverted try off a move initiated on the halfway line.

Three minutes later they almost added a second on the opposite flank but Ruairi Shields just failed to gather a neat chip behind the defence.

But that second try wasn’t long coming – and it came off a Bann lineout, with the home team failing to secure the ball at the tail close to their own line. Mary’s gathered, set up the maul and hooker Richie Halpin finished off, with Conor Dean converting.

BMW Junior Team's Daniel Harper. Picture: BMW Motorsport

The carnage continued, with the Dubliners’ adding their third try 20 minutes into the game off a scrum on their own 10 metre line, scrum-half Mark Fogarty taking the final pass and cruising home.

Bann managed to work their way into opposition territory and lock Alex Thompson dived over the visitors’ line after a well-controlled lineout/maul had brought his side within striking distance, with Adam Doherty adding the extras.

But any hopes Bann had of going into half-time on level terms were crushed in the 35th minute as the visitors set up a maul off another lineout five metres out. The maul collapsed and without hesitation the referee ran to the posts to indicate the penalty try that left Bann 17 points in arrears.

Doherty’s successful penalty shot on 37 minutes still left his side with a 14 point deficit to make up going into the second half.

There was no doubting the determination of the home side to turn things around as they dominated for much of the next 30 minutes played.

Such was the pressure brought to bear on the visitors’ line that they conceded three penalties in rapid succession and picked up two yellow cards.

But the anticipated penalty try didn’t materialise and temporary relief for the visitors came when Bann winger John Porter was forced into touch just short of the try line and Mary’s cleared their lines from the set piece that followed.

But from the next Bann attack, Mary’s were again penalised in front of their posts. Skipper Peter Cromie tapped and drove, the ball was recycled and replacement prop Robbie Mathers drove over from close range, with Doherty converting.

That left Bann in a losing bonus point position with 12 minutes remaining. But the momentum built up over the previous 20 minutes was lost when, just four minutes later, a sloppy piece of defending let Mary’s in for the fifth try which denied Bann the losing bonus point which arguably was the least they deserved.

McDowell’s disappointment was tempered, at least to some extent, by the performance of props Josh Chambers and Christian Trimble, standing in for regulars Stuart Cromie (concussion) and captain Michael Cromie (calf injury), backed up by replacement Robbie Mathers.

McDowell said: “Christian was making his AIL debut after just taking up the game seven years ago and coming through our youth structure. He did really well – his display out there gave further evidence of the work going in at youth level to produce players for our First XV. He and Robbie, another youth system graduate, who showed his strength in going in for his try, offer different options. It was a big step up for both of them but they’re showing great potential.”

Bann now have a week off before travelling to Navan, also pointless for what both teams will see as a must-win game. McDowell was however taking hope from the attitude of his players.

“Yes, heads are down after today’s result,” he said. “But I have never questioned the lads’ attitude or application. I can see improvement in every game and if we can maintain that I know we will get the results we need.”