THREE Rock Rovers became the first side to beat Banbridge this season as the Rathfarnham took advantage of an understrength visiting side to Grange Road.
The result saw Rovers stay in fifth place in the men’s EY Hockey League but they are now within two points of the leaders with a game in hand on some of their rivals – a back match against bottom side Instonians.
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 out on the chance to go top as they fell 4-3 to Cork C of I in an entertaining fare at Garryduff.
In a thrilling first quarter, the hosts took the lead when a powerful right-wing run and cross from Andrew Power was turned in by a Monkstown defender.
Philip Brownlow had a second chalked off for crossing soon after before Richard Sykes got the first of his two goals from Town’s second corner in the 17th minute.
The relentless pace continued in the second quarter. C of I went back in front from their first corner – won by Simon Wolfe – with John Jermyn flicking home. Monkstown hit back when they robbed possession on the 23m line and Davy Carson was on hand at the back post to knock the second equaliser.
But the hosts were in front for a third time before half-time from the stand-out moment of the game.
Wolfe picked the ball up wide on the left and, thanks to a combination of great skills and even greater determination, he managed to force a shot under the on-rushing Max Maguire for a 3-2 lead.
The third quarter provided some room to take a breath with Monkstown surviving a spell down to nine players. They did fall further behind with 15 minutes to go when Jermyn making no mistake from another corner for 4-2. The tie was not dead yet, though, as former C of I man Jason Lynch won a corner which also drew a yellow card for Philip Smith.
Sykes beat Billy Lynch to reduce the deficit to the minimum and set up a big closing phase. The Dubliners had another corner on the final whistle but Sykes’ high flick was deflected away to safety. C of I stay in fourth while Town dropped to third.