A Conor Field hat trick secured a vital win for Banbridge against Ballymena in this entertaining AIL1B match at Eaton Park on Saturday afternoon.

We’ve missed a couple of rounds of this competition, as we caught up with the provincial leagues and cups. However, we certainly picked a cracker of a game for us to resume our coverage, as Ballymena and Banbridge battled out this Round 15 match in the All Ireland League 1B.

Both teams went into the game on a poor run of form, both losing their last three games in this competition. Ballymena had suffered substantial losses and Banbridge had picked up a couple of losing bonus points.

It was a typical March afternoon as we experienced all four seasons throughout the game. The prevailing wind was blowing up the field and Ballymena took full advantage to clock up a 14 – 0 lead in the first quarter through a Matthew Dick try, converted by Tim Small and a penalty try.

Banbridge had struggled to make any headway against the wind and rain but as the conditions improved a break down the right ended with Conor Field going over for an unconverted try just past the half hour mark. Ballymena responded with a penalty from Small and the teams turned round with Ballymena leading 17 – 5 at the break, and good value for it.

It was a tense start to the third quarter as the teams battled it out in the middle of the park and Ballymena looked reasonably comfortable in the containment of their visitors. However, a fumble wrongfooted the Ballymena defence and quick hands found Michael Lowry in space out wide, the young Ulster player rounding the scrambling defence to score an unconverted try.

It got worse for the home side as the restart was chased down by Field for his second score, converted by Ian Porter, to tie the game to 17 all.

Ballymena regained some composure and worked a second penalty from Small to retake the lead at 20 – 17 but Field wasn’t finished and the impressive winger weaved his way through the Ballymena defence to complete his hattrick and put the visitors in the lead for the first time as the game went into its final quarter. Porter converted to take the score to 20 – 24.

Ballymena worked hard for a response but Banbridge were the next to score with captain Michael Cromie crashing over for a try, converted by Porter, to give the visitors an 11 point lead with five minutes left.

The home side went straight back up the pitch to score through scrum half Michael Stronge, converted by Small, to make it a four point game but Banbridge were able to hold on for the final few plays to take a bonus point win.

BALLYMENA: Glenn Baillie; Darrell Montgomery, Paddy James, Alan Smyth, Jonny Rossborough; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, John Andrew, Chris Cundell, JJ McKee, Connor Smyth, Matthew Dick, Marcus Rea (c), Clive Ross. Replacements: Josh Bill, James Taggart, Jonny Spence, Phil Campbell, Jack Fleming.

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Adam Ervine; Michael Lowry, Jonny Stewart; Michael Cromie (c), Peter Cromie, Corrie Barrett, Matthew Laird, Stevie Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, Robin Sinton, Greg Jones. Replacements: Jonny Weir, Stuart Cromie, Dale Carson, Jonny Little, Ian Porter.