Another bonus point wins sees Banbridge RFC top the league table

Banbridge now have a healthy points difference of +87. INBL1548-268EB
Banbridge now have a healthy points difference of +87. INBL1548-268EB

Another bonus point win, their fifth from nine outings, allowed Banbridge to retain their pole position in Division 2A of the All-Ireland League.

While it might be overstating it to say that Queen’s have been Bann’s ‘bogey team’, the results over recent seasons have certainly been clearly in favour of the students.

But Bann showed much better mastery of the difficult conditions in Saturday’s game at the Dub, scoring four tries to which Queen’s only response was two penalties.

“Our defensive line speed didn’t allow them to get their passes away,” said Coach Daniel Soper. “And from early in the second half they were chasing the game.

“But we didn’t give them a sniff and I’m pleased that we only conceded those six points, which is very good against any student side.”

The strong diagonal wind favoured the home side in the opening half and it took them just five minutes to get off the mark, with out-half Jack Milligan stroking over a penalty from 30 metres.

Queen’s lock Marc Campbell was, perhaps harshly, yellow-carded after 10 minutes but soon afterwards Bann lost Dale Carson after the flanker had put in a heavy tackle.

The wind gave the students the territorial edge but Bann’s strong mauling pack and aggressive outfield defence ensured that there was rarely a threat to the try line.

Bann were always willing to counter-attack and Adam Doherty linked with John Porter to create a promising build-up which foundered on a knock-on.

Adam Ervine intercepted on halfway but the cover defence snuffed out the danger before Milligan took advantage of a penalty at the other end to double his side’s tally with 33 minutes played.

But three minutes later a misdirected pass of a Queen’s lineout was picked up by Andrew Morrison who took play into the danger zone. 
Bann won a penalty which Stephen Irvine took quickly to put Robin Thompson in for a try at the corner, which Doherty just failed to better from the narrowest of angles into the wind.

Worse was to follow for the home side as their defence was split open by Thompson’s short pass which allowed Morrison to race in at the posts, with Doherty’s conversion giving his side a 6-12 interval advantage.

Bann tightened the screw at the start of the second half via their impressive scrum. Ervine’s long kick took play close to the line and three scrums later prop Stuart Cromie was able to effect the touchdown, with Doherty again on target off the tee.

Thompson’s astute kicking was keeping Queen’s on the back foot and after James McCrum had fielded a mis-thrown lineout ball, Jonny Little’s burst set up another five metre scrum under the home posts.

Two penalties and a re-set meant that it was at the fourth attempt that Irvine was able to pick up and forced his way over for the bonus point score, which Doherty converted with 56 minutes played.

Bann were content to deprive the opposition of possession for much of the remainder of the game. But the students did manage a final flourish in the closing stages, only to be thwarted again by a Bann defence that was clearly intent on denying them a try.

“It wasn’t a perfect performance,” said Soper. “Our lineout could have been better, but the conditions made it difficult. But we didn’t miss too many tackles out there and the tight five put in their share of those, with Chris Allen and Kallan Martin working very hard. And again Stephen Irvine was very strong carrying ball.”