Coleraine Inst 1st XV travelled to Banbridge Academy on Saturday with nine places between the teams in the recent rankings.
It was Banbridge who had the first real attack opportunity, using their big pack of forwards well, causing problems with Inst’s inside defence and this was rewarded with a penalty from 35 metres straight in front. Inst responded with Cameron Fulton stepping up to convert the penalty from 25 metres. On the 28 minutes a turnover at the ruck by Gordon and Bonnar provided quick ball for scrum-half Campbell who fed captain and number 8 Nick Logan who dummied through the midfield defence running 30 metres to give the final pass to out-half Stanbridge for the try, only to have the ball knocked down by the last defender. This seemingly went unseen by the referee, allowing the home side to clear their lines.
Inst’s mistakes were beginning to prevent them from playing good rugby. Added to this, poor discipline at the ruck leading to 11 unforced errors. The last of which giving Banbridge out-half an easy 3 points for his team to end the first half 6-3 to the home side.
With words from coaches Mr Palmer and Mr Nicholl at half time, Inst started the second period bright but with Luke Scott unable to roll away at the ruck, the referee had no choice but to penalise the Coleraine centre. Banbridge out-half Kennedy left off were he had in the first and converted the penalty with relative ease.
With this saw the introducing of Ulster Schools Representative Conor Shiels returning after illness and his presence was immediate for the away side. With Shiels at out-half and Stanbridge now at his more familiar centre position the Inst back line started to function much more smoothly. After a number of phases of the home side going backwards in their 22, Inst made the turnover and after Shiels moved the ball wide to Acheson and Fulton, who nearly made the line only to have the ball dislodged from his grasp. From the resulting scrum Coleraine won a penalty and from their own scrum 5 metres out, Shiels sent Acheson crashing through the home defence for the match’s first try under the posts. Shiels converted to make the scoreline 10-9 in favour of Inst.
Inst then forced a turnover on their own line and Shiels was able to relieve the danger. Both sides had their chances with, both Kennedy and Shiels missing penalty opportunities for their teams. But with 8 minutes left, Banbridge’s Kennedy nudged his team in front with a penalty from 25 metres. The home side collected the kick off and worked their way up towards halfway. But with Kennedy now operating at his more familiar scrum-half position, he supplied the substitute 10 with good ball only for him to knock on. Shiels fully capitalised with the ball bouncing into his hands, running through the defensive line, stepping a covering defender and pulling in the last two defenders to give the pass to centre Joel Stanbridge to stroll in from 20 metres out to score the crucial try with five minutes remaining. Shiels converted.
Inst managed to hold out and record a very hard earned win. Coleraine’s smart use of defence in the second half was critical to the win. Stand out performances from both Fifth former Peter Bonnar on the blindside and openside Mark Gordon who were superb in both attack and defence all day. But man of the match had to go to Thomas Pethick who was great in both lineouts and in defence, contributing a great amount to a good win for Coleriane Inst.