Just two points separate the top five sides in the men’s EY Hockey League after a stunning start to the New Year with the top two both losing.
Indeed, the five games produced a massive 26 goals with four fixtures going down to the wire.
Leaders Banbridge fell to their first defeat of the campaign, losing 2-1 at Grange Road
Three Rock Rovers became the first side to beat Banbridge this season as they took advantage of an understrength visiting side.
Crucially, Bann were without Matthew Bell who sustained an ankle injury in midweek while Fraser Mills broke a knuckle in training, too, to add to Owen Magee and Drew Carlisle’s absences.
Rovers took the lead inside three minutes when Ravin Nair’s ball into the circle where Jody Hosking got a slight touch off Gareth Lennox’s pads for an early advantage.
Bann, for the most part, held more of the possession and territory but found many of their attacks stymied down the flanks by a compact Rovers defence.
When they did break in, they won plenty of corners but Jamie Carr produced a fine game in goals, keeping out Eugene Magee on a number of occasions.
Rovers countered to go 2-0 up by the half-time break with an excellent team goal, working the ball from right to left where Conor Empey picked out Ben Walker who beautifully lifted the ball into the goal.
From there, the hosts were in strong shape for the most part until the closing ten minutes when Garry Ringwood was shown a yellow card.
Within 13 seconds, Jonny McKee punished the indiscretion with a sweet action on the top of the circle before shooting home.
Ross Canning and Eugene Magee were both shown yellow while Bann pushed forward in the closing stages, winning a number of corners – including one on the final hooter – but Carr kept them all out to preserve the home side’s win.
Monkstown missed their chance to go back to the top following a 4-3 loss to Cork C of I.
The hosts led 1-0 through Andrew Power’s deflected cross and then 2-1 thanks to a John Jermyn corner goal.
Town replied through Richard Sykes and Davy Carson before the Garryduff hosts made a break for a 4-2 lead with Simon Wolfe scoring a cracking solo goal before Jermyn nailed his 14th goal of the campaign.
Sykes’ second of the day got Town back within range with 15 minutes to go but CI held on for victory.
Monkstown drop to third as a result after a rare two losses in succession while CI are fourth with a game in hand.
At the bottom, Glenanne prevailed 5-4 against Railway
Union to move up to seventh place and away from the relegation playoff place.
Shane O’Donoghue and Joe Brennan both scored twice in a thriller with the Tallaght side notching their second win of the campaign.
Instonians were left frustrated once again as they lost 3-2 to a last minute David Quinn goal for Pembroke.
And a goal in each half saw Lisnagarvey do the double over UCD, edging out a rejigged student side shy eight of their front-line players who were away on a college skiing trip.
Ryan Gettybroke the deadlock from a counter-attack in the second quarter with Neal Glassey finding Ryan Getty unmarked at the back post.
They did move 2-0 up when James Lorimer dragged home down Conor Quinn’s right-hand side.