It took a late try, converted with the last kick of the game, to salvage a losing bonus point from Banbridge’s trip to Nenagh last Saturday.
The defeat and Naas’s win over Cashel saw the Kildare side take over top spot from Bann in Division 2A of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League, but only on points differential.
So with just three games remaining the league is finely balanced and that late score in Tipperary could yet prove critical in determining which side takes the one automatic promotion place up for grabs.
Bann’s Assistant Coach Simon Best said that while there were elements of his team’s play that were disappointing he was very proud of how they had stuck to their task to garner the bonus point.
“The conditions were very difficult but Nenagh had the benefit of the wind in the first half and made the most of a couple of half breaks to take a 14 point lead into the break,” he said.
“With the underfoot conditions deteriorating it was always going to be easier for the team ahead to hang onto their lead.
“We were clearly on top in the final quarter but it was very frustrating that we weren’t allowed to up the tempo and take full advantage of the numerous penalties they conceded.”
Bann struggled at the set piece throughout the first half, losing three lineouts on their own throw and conceding one strike against the head.
That allowed Nenagh to take full advantage of the wind to dominate territorially and create the space for left winger Eathon Maloney to come round as the extra man on the opposite flank and cross for the opening try, which full-back Michael Walsh did well to convert with 21 minutes played.
Home prop Jonny Hayes went in from close range on 28 minutes after the visitors had again put themselves under unnecessary pressure, with Walsh again adding the extras.
Bann would have expected to harness the elements on the re-start to gain a foothold in opposition territory but instead they again found themselves on the back foot as Nenagh targeted the set piece to maintain their stranglehold. Walsh might have added to their tally but a penalty effort on 57 minutes drifted wide.
It was to prove their last scoring opportunity as Bann finally broke out to gain a foothold in the opposition half. Joss Cromie’s break off the base of a ruck kick-started the fightback and although Stephen Irvine’s pass to Peter Cromie saw the hooker hauled down just short of the line, the visitors now began to control the exchanges.
Nenagh’s efforts to contain the onslaught saw them concede five penalties and pick up two yellow cards in the final stages of the game.
But Banbridge’s efforts to breach the defence off tap penalties were proving fruitless and as the game moved into injury time it looked as if they had made a pointless ‘trip to Tipp’.
But one final attack put Adam Doherty in possession near the line and the full-back’s determination took him through the final tackle for the touchdown.
The conversion might have looked relatively easy but given its significance it wasn’t. But with his only effort off the tee all afternoon Doherty found the target to earn his side what might just prove to be a vital point.
“We can be disappointed at the manner of their tries and we have some work to do at our lineout,” said Best.
“But I was pleased with the way the players stuck at it and Adam (Doherty) deserves credit for his try and what was a difficult conversion in the circumstances.”