Armagh travelled to Rifle Park to take on Banbridge in the Ulster Senior League looking for revenge after their defeat in last week’s cup-tie at Armagh but in spite of a spirited performance fell once again, 29-24.
In ideal conditions for open attractive rugby Armagh with a slight breeze behind them kicked off and immediately took the game to the home side. A swift break by their energetic scrum-half Doyle was stopped illegally by Banbridge in front of their own posts.
The easy penalty was converted by Armagh captain Rainey to put Armagh 3-0 after five minutes.
Banbridge hit back when from the restart Armagh were penalised for obstruction.
The ball was put in the corner and from the resulting line-out moved quickly along their speedy back-line for winger Harbinson to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but Banbridge now led 5-3.
The big Banbridge pack with captain McKinstry to the fore was now beginning to dominate and more pressure led to them winning another attacking line-out close to the Armagh line.
This time a clean catch and drive resulted in McKinstry being driven over the visitors goal-line. Out-half Scotts successful conversion now put Banbridge 12pts to 3 clear mid-way through the first half.
From the restart Armagh were awarded a penalty for a Banbridge player coming in from the side. Raineys successful attempt reduced Banbridges lead to 12pts to 6.
Banbridge however continued on the offensive and powerful and decisive running by centre Andrews brought play right to the Armagh try-line.
From the ensuing ruck Armagh wing-forward Riddle was yellow-carded for killing the ball illegally. The easy penalty converted by Scott restored Banbridges 9pts lead.
Armagh regrouped and their pack led by the outstanding Morton at last began to win some good go-forward ball
This in turn put pressure on the home teams defence with Armagh being awarded two penalties in quick succession both converted by Rainey to reduce Banbridges lead at half-time 15-12.
With the breeze now behind them Banbridge began the second-half with renewed determination.
Utilising the conditions they continually kicked the ball deep forcing Armagh to defend desperately inside their own 22.
The pressure eventually told 10 minutes into the second half when from a 5-yard scrum wing-forward Irvine crashed over the Armagh line despite the best efforts of the Armagh back-row. Scotts conversion now put Banbridge22pts to 12. Their lead was quickly increased to 29ptsto 12 when Armagh tried to run the ball out of their own 22 only to be turned over by aggressive Banbridge counter-rucking.
Once secured the ball was moved at pace along the back-line to winger Harbinson who scored his second try and Banbridges fourth thus securing the all important bonus point.
Armagh refused to give up and indeed hit back strongly in the closing 10 minutes.
As the home side appeared to tire Armagh began to find gaps which they successfully exploited twice to score two well-taken tries the first by scrumhalf Doyle following a strong surge by the Armagh pack and the second by Morton after a powerful line-out drive.
One successful conversion by Rainey left now only 5pts between the sides 29-24 to Banbridge which in spite of Armagh’s best efforts is how the extremely entertaining game finished.
Meanwhile, Rainey are three points clear at the top of the Ulster Senior League and are the only side with a 100% record, writes Ciaran Donaghy.
The Old Boys made it four wins out of four with a 30-5 at Hatrick Park over Malone while Belfast Harlequins ended Ballynahinch’s unbeaten start to the season with 17-14 win.
Lock Michael Shiels scored two of the Rainey’s four tries, captain Neil O’Kane and scrum half Alan McCluggage also crossed.
McCluggage converted two tries and kicked a penalty with Mark O’Connor adding the other three points with a penalty, Malone’s sole score came from a Michael Barker try.
At Ballymacarn Park Hinch boosted by the return of Ulster prop Paddy McAllister looked on their way to a fourth victory as they led 14-0 at half time.
Hinch took the lead after Quins were punished at the ruck in their own 22, the home side opted for the scrum and after several resets Hinch were awarded a penalty try with Kiwi out half Richard Lobb converting.
Roger McBurney used his pace for Hinch’s second try and Lobb converted.
Quins with Ulster duo Neil McComb and Michael Heaney in their ranks scored 17 unanswered points.
Ballymena defeated Dungannon 44-8 and Instonians beat Ards 30-13 at Hamilton Park.