Banbridge RFC 21 V St Mary’s College RFC 26
Energia AIL Division I B
February 25th 2023
Rifle Park, Banbridge
In Banbridge Town in the County Down, one winter’s afternoon,
Two teams did meet, both hard to beat, while fans did cheer and swoon.
In a game so fast, could both teams last, or would one take the day,
The excitement grew, as no one knew, or who would sadly pay.
The hosts did play, but they did pay, with four St Marys’ scores
Ban did not lack, as they hit back with two, and then one more
Then near the end, blue team did fend, made sure there was no slip,
As the both team vied, brave Banbridge tried the balance then to tip.
The crowd did shout, Ro’s lads held out, brave victory to achieve,
Amid the cheers and sharing beers, then Banbridge we did leave.
Yes, it was a bit of a nail-biter near the end, St Marys having been emphatically ascendant in the first half and early second half. At that stage we were up 0-26. The match was played at good pace. Marys showed skills and a low errors count. There was a perceptible wind which may have made some difference, but certainly Banbridge improved as the game progressed and of course replacement changes also played into the milieu. The return of long-term absentee, Mighty Mick McCormack who treated himself to a try, was most welcome as was more recently hors de combat, Peter Starrett.
There was an urgency and determination about play to be admired. The much changed backline showed innovation. The halves were efficient and Aaron O’Neill, who was standing in for injured Conor Dean, scored the bonus point try early in the second half. The centre partnership also was extremely active, although Ryan O’Loughlin had to retire injured. Conor Hickey has played Fullback, outhalf and centre. Today at 13, he looked at home and it appears to be his best position. His defensive system seems best suited there. He showed game appreciation, was a constant threat with his terpsichorean skills, and when in contact ensured safe delivery of the ball. He also displayed a useful addition to his game, as he converted three of the four tries. He received the SoftCo MoM Award.
Ruairi Shields too, seems to have found fullback the position best suited to his skills. The wingers were secure. Hugo is an ace, he had a fine game and scored and excellent try.
The pack continues to compete well every game, even with adjustments of personnel components as required. The backrow led by indomitable Skipper, Ronan, was very effective with Daniel Leane again shifting to number 6 seamlessly; and Niall Hurley fitting in with élan.
Overall, it was a satisfying performance, if a little shaky near the end. The work that has gone in even since last week, was evident, which is a credit to the team, to Sean Cronin, and colleagues. Certainly, the radiant face of our President, Gareth Roche, told of the joy his team brings on days like these and the close bond between them and the members. The DoR, Alan, the Manager, Paudge, Coaches, Sean, Jamie and Conor, all chatting with contented smiles painted a positive scene. The rest of the managerial group of Paul Pender and Ian Bloomer, hummed happily as they busied themselves, packing and preparing for departure. It must be recorded that there was a commendable turn up of supporters from Dublin, the usual faithful and including several parental groups including those of the current and two former Club Captains. There was also a coach, carrying a group of junior players who came to cheer on their senior colleagues. It is well done to all who travelled. And hopefully, most who wanted to avoid the result of that other little match in Italy, did.
We have another testing tour of duty next week when we visit league leaders, Armagh City. Without an International match due, an even bigger contingent of supporters will be expected; and will really be needed.
It was clear from early on that we had the winning of the game. Marys just looked that little bit sharper and better organised. That purposeful approach was reflected in their play and it did not take long before it paid off with a try from the Skipper. On eight minutes, Marys won a penalty close to the Ban line. Ronan showed his justifiable confidence in his pack by selecting to take a scrum. The pressure went on, Ronan broke from the back and drilled through the defence to score close in. 0-7.
A run back from a kick ahead involving Ruairi and Aaron gave the ball to Hurtling Hugo, on the right wing. He swerved, straightened and touched the turbo to whirr through the opposition, in for a fine try. Good conversion from Conor. 0-14. That was 32 minutes then only seven minutes later, pressure by the pack on the Ban line saw Mighty Mick, use his power to dive low over the line, and leave the half time score at 0-19.
The second half started well for the visitors and pressure told on 44 minutes, as a gap opened for Aaron O’Neill, he ran hard and well to score a good try and bring the score to 0-26.
Was there a rumbling, a stirring, as Ban clicked into action? Only four minutes later, 48 minutes, they brought the score to 7-26. And 54 minutes it was 14-26. When it was 61 minutes the score went to 21-26 with a well taken try. Now the trembles came for the blue fans. Nigh on 20 minutes to go, the coaches were jigging, oul-fellas’ pacemakers were creaking, pulses were 120; blue folk were turning purple. No one should have worried Ro had it figured. He marshalled his team and even with a number of replacements on, defence was firm, there were no more scores from either side, and the visitors could breathe again. It ended 21-26. A fair and sporting game, well done to all.
Remember next week, come along and Roar on Ronan.
Team (12 rolling changes)
15 R Shields, 14 H Conway, 13 C Hickey, 12 R O’Loughlin,11 M Svejdar, 10 A O’Neill, 9 R Fahy, 8 R Watters (Capt.), 7 N Hurley, 6 D Leane, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin,1 A Mulvihill. Dan Lyons, T O’Reilly, I Wickham, E Baxter, A McEvoy, E Carey, J Reidy Walsh.