Banbridge still searching for that elusive first win
Banbridge picked up their first points of the Energia All-Ireland League campaign on Saturday, but they are still searching for that elusive first win, after matching visitors Naas on tries scored but losing out on conversions kicked.
If thata implies criticism of Bann kicker Adam Doherty then it would be misplaced, because the Banbridge full-back was, yet again, his team’s most potent attacker.
He had failed to convert a difficult 3rd minute penalty attempt, before Naas took advantage of a charged down kick to score a try under the posts five minutes later, with centre Gary Kavanagh’s touchdown converted by Peter Osborne.
But Doherty collected a chip kick off the re-start action and sprinted through a gap, out-pacing the cover to touch down in the corner before just failing to add the conversion.
If the visitors appeared to have a slight advantage at scrummage time, as measured by the referee’s penalty count, there was no doubting Bann’s supremacy at the lineout.
That was underlined on the half hour, when secure first phase ball five metres out was converted into points by a drive and Peter Cromie’s finishing touch, giving the home side a 10-7 advantage, which Osborne’s long distance shot at the posts was unable to neutralise before the break.
Naas produced a stunning statement six minutes after the resumption, with winger Donal Conroy taking advantage of the space created by his inside backs to scurry down the right flank and round behind the posts to simplify Osborne’s conversion.
Nine minutes later Bann were back in front, having used that lineout strength to put hooker Cromie in for his second score, which Doherty bettered off the tee.
Naas notched up their third try off a set scrum close to the home line, Osborne breaking through to touch down at the posts.
And when replacement No 8 Paulie Tolofua picked up from the base of a scrum to power through the home defence for his side’s fourth try and Osborne’s matching conversion made it a two score game, it all looked done and dusted with eight minutes remaining.
Skipper Mdichael Cromie gave his side a glimmer of hope when he went in for his side’s fourth try out wide with four minutes left on the clock. But it was too little, too late for the Rifle Park men as Naas saw out the time remaining without further threat to their lines.
Indeed, Osborne might have deprived Bann of the losing bonus point their efforts deserved from a late penalty shot, but the prevailing wind saw his attempt drift wide, leaving Bann with two bonus points thanks to those four tries and six point losing margin.
The result leaves Bann anchored at the base of Division 1B, but Coach Mark McDowell was still seeing positives as he reflected on the game. “It’s the little things that are the difference between winning and losing in this league,” he said. “That clearly wasn’t the result we wanted against a side at the same end of the table as ourselves. That early try was a big blow but the lads fought back well to lead at the break for the second week running.
“Then we came from behind to lead again going into the final quarter of the game before they struck twice, leaving us too much ground to make up in the time remaining.
“There are no question marks against the character or commitment of this group of players. We will continue to work hard in training, ironing out those little glitches that are costing us. I remain confident that we will soon embark on a run of wins to lift us off the bottom.”
Bann team against Naas:- Adam Doherty, Josh Cromie, Joe Finnegan, Jonny Little, Ross Cartmill, Andrew Morrison, Neil Kilpatrick, Michael Cromie (Capt), Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Alex Thompson, Brendan McSorley, Max Lyttle, Matthew Laird, Robin Sinton. Replacements:- Josh Chambers, Tim Savage, Martin Vorster, Josh Cunningham, Aaron Kennedy, Dean Hayes.