Bann can do it on a rainy day in Munster

Banbridge stretched their winning streak to five matches with victory over Cashel. INBL1548-271EB
Banbridge stretched their winning streak to five matches with victory over Cashel. INBL1548-271EB
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Banbridge overcame the conditions and a rugged Cashel pack to pick up their eighth Ulster Bank League win of the season on Saturday.

The 20-18 victory kept Bann out in front in the race for promotion to Division 1B.

And Assistant Coach Simon Best was in no doubt where the credit lay for his team’s narrow win.

“It was the players’ attitude that won it in the end,” he commented as the players recovered from their exertions on a heavy pitch.

“It’s all very well playing good rugby and scoring tries on firm grounds and in dry conditions. But the real test is to come to Munster and play on a pitch like that and I thought the team showed great effort and character to come through that test.”

Bann certainly had to battle hard for their win and in the end, they were fortunate that both home kickers had an off day and that the hosts spurned a late kick at goal from inside the Bann 22 in favour of a five-metre lineout.

It was perhaps an understandable option as their lineout and drive had already coughed up a couple of scores and another try would probably have earned a bonus point win.

But for once, their lineout failed to operate and Bann were able to play out the few minutes remaining as they grimly defended their two point advantage.

The hardy band of visiting fans had little to cheer in the opening 35 minutes as Cashel dominated territory and possession, picking up two tries for a deserved ten point lead. That well-drilled lineout enabled prop Danny Lambe to grab the opening score.

Twelve minutes later influential number eight Ed Leamy raced in from 12 metres as the referee played advantage for a Bann scrummaging offence.

But Bann hit back to level the scores at the break, with Adam Doherty’s 34th minute penalty getting them off the mark before the full-back added the extras to Stephen Irvine’s pick up and drive effort off the base of a scrum.

By the 51st minute, Bann were again facing a two score deficit. Pat O’Connor’s simple penalty was followed by Leamy’s quickly taken penalty from which he proved unstoppable, after a lineout drive had been held up over the line.

Bann were trying to counter from deep at every opportunity and after scrum-half Josh Cromie tapped a penalty on his own 22, winger John Porter took up the running and play moved to halfway where Bann won a penalty.

As the pressure was maintained through the secured lineout ball and impressive handling, Cashel were eventually penalised under their posts. Lock forward Sean O’Connor saw yellow and Doherty exacted further retribution with the kick.

Two minutes later, Bann went through the phases to win ruck ball on halfway. Fraser Mulholland came round to create a two-on-one on the blindside and set Andrew Morrison off on a run to the Cashel 22. With the full-back closing, the centre’s pass to Adam Ervine was timed to perfection and the winger sped down a narrow channel on the left before crossing behind the posts for Doherty’s conversion to give his side that slender lead that they managed to maintain until the end.

“I thought Josh Cromie had an excellent game, with his box kicking forcing Cashel into handling errors,” said Best.

“And that try by Adam (Ervine) showed the ability we have. We went through the phases from deep and our work on the practice ground on skills and identifying space in the opposition defence really paid off. That try was a real team effort.”

With Queen’s again getting the better of Malone, Bann have now opened up a six point gap at the top of the table. But UCC, Saturday’s visitors to Rifle Park, travel on the back of a resounding win last weekend over Corinthians and, following on from their last minute defeat of Bann in Cork, they will again test the league leaders’ credentials.