Newtown 6; Bandon Grammar 23
The sunken grey cloud overhead matched the mood of the Newtown players as they trooped off their own paddock following last Wednesday’s 17-point reversal to Bandon Grammar.
But there was little shame in this defeat for the hosts as a Bandon side, bolstered by a mobile pack – with an excellent back row in particular – just had too much grunt over the 80 minutes.
After a difficult opening, in which the Newtown front row found the going tough during the opening trio of scrums, the hosts found their feet and settled into the action.
Some superb tackles from prop George Walsh and scrum half Ben Cross repelled the Bandon advances, with towering lock David Reynolds leading the Corkmen’s charge.
Bandon, on the front foot for much of the opening quarter, seemed a little too eager to the move the ball quickly at the breakdown; their knock-ons reaching four before the 10th minute had elapsed.
But they eventually took the lead via Darren Sweetnam off the kicking tee after 17 minutes after one too many Newtown bodies had strayed offside.
Yet Newtown’s response was instant, with Ben Cross bisecting the posts to level the scores 90 seconds later. By the 22nd minute, Newtown were disrupting the Bandon lineout excellently, making their tentative start feel like a bad memory.
After a beautiful grubber kick to touch by fly-half Patrick Kiersey, a Bandon player’s kicking the ball away once play had stopped led to a penalty, which Cross duly fired between the uprights.
Despite pinning Bandon back through some great kicking from inside centre Emmett O’Shea, Newtown again found themselves defending as half-time beckoned.
Despite conceding a series of penalties within yards of their own line, referee Michael Corrigan (excellent throughout) resisted the temptation to brandish yellow.
When flanker James Bendon eventually crashed over for the game’s opening try, it came as no great surprise. Sweetnam converted and Bandon led 10-6 at the break.
The second half began brightly for Newtown, with lively full-back Andrew Heffernan doing his bit to get his team onto the front foot thanks to a searing run from deep. But that was to prove as good as it got for the city school from an offensive perspective.
Within seven minutes of the restart, Sweetnam had landed another penalty to extend Bandon’s lead to seven points and they strode forward again from Ben Cross’s restart.
After left wing Robert Skuse knocked on with a try at his mercy, Bandon’s superb number eight James Travers didn’t follow suit in the 53rd minute, crossing the whitewash to strengthen their position.
As the game wore on, Bandon’s greater bulk came to bear despite Newtown’s best efforts in the tight – they certainly didn’t shirk from their tackling duties.
But the third try was inevitable given Bandon’s dominance of both possession and territory, with right wing Conor Moloney diving over in the corner to complete the scoring on the stroke of full-time.