BANN Thirds, battling with Dungannon Thirds and CIYMS Seconds for the Junior League Two title, avenged an early-season defeat by the latter in Saturday’s vital game.
Despite almost continuous occupation of the visitors’ territory in the opening 15 minutes, Bann were unable to break through the CI defence. Mark Doherty’s 13th minute penalty rebounded off an upright but the full-back slotted between the posts three minutes later to earn Bann a meagre reward for all their early pressure.
As CI began to win more possession their nippy threequarters were looking threatening. A sustained assault on the home line was finished off by their inside centre scampering in for an unconverted try in the 24th minute.
Nine minutes later CI were 3-12 ahead, after their left winger took advantage of some sloppy defending to touch down at the posts.
Despite turning round to face the wind, Bann started the second half in style, sending centre Gary McKibben racing in for a try in the corner with just two minutes played.
The visitors missed two kickable penalties in the next ten minutes and that was to prove crucial as Bann set about denying them possession for much of the remainder of the game.
After a quiet first half, No 8 Sam Boyd starting putting in some surging runs to put the CI defence on the back foot. And after Peter Irvine’s crunching tackle had terminated a CI attack on the halfway line, Boyd got on the end of a counter-attack led by hooker Ryan Ringland and winger John Porter to run in from the “22”.
That edged Bann a single point ahead and they sealed the win with a superb try initiated by Doherty. His silky running took play close to the CI “22” and after Ringland and Porter had again linked superbly, the full-back took the final off-load to touch down, adding the conversion to leave CI needing two scores. This was a try of the highest quality, with the off-loading out of the tackle and the support play getting their due reward.
This win was vital in keeping the Thirds very much in the title chase. After a poor first half they eventually came good after the break to give an indication of their potential. Half of the pack featured on last season’s U-19 side and, bolstered by the presence of stalwarts Gareth Jelly and Stephen Nelson, whose play out of touch oozed class, they are proving more than a match for any opposing forward unit.
And with Francois Viljoen pulling the strings from out-half, the threequarter line has the pace to threaten any defence.
This Saturday the team will hope to maintain their challenge when they travel to Lisburn.