Bann warm-up for big kick-off with a victory

Action from a hard-hitting afternoon at Rifle Park as Banbridge took on Instonians to prepare for this Friday's Ulster League opener at Queen's. INBL1534-267EB
Action from a hard-hitting afternoon at Rifle Park as Banbridge took on Instonians to prepare for this Friday's Ulster League opener at Queen's. INBL1534-267EB

Banbridge got the new rugby season off to a successful start as they out-scored Instonians 24-10 in last Saturday’s friendly.

Played over three 30-minute periods, the game gave Bann coach Daniel Soper the opportunity to run his eye over 33 players in the home squad.

And while the result was to an extent irrelevant, Soper was pleased with the outcome and the performances of his players.

“I was happy with the way it went,” he said. “You could see that those areas on which we had concentrated pre-season went well, but we still have work to do in others such as our defensive structures and support at the tackle.”

Certainly Instonians looked sharper to the breakdown, winning turnover ball often enough to keep themselves in contention for two thirds of the game.

Bann took the lead ten minutes in, creating a two-man overlap from which full-back Adam Ervine was able to dive in at the left hand corner. The visitors hit back five minutes later, disconcertingly mauling their way over the try line following a five metre lineout.

Stephen Irvine’s break off the tail of a lineout created the room for winger John Porter to regain the lead with a well-taken try but the Belfast side deserved the equalising try which was the culmination of a period of sustained pressure.

Bann eased away in the final third thanks to tries from flankers Paul Ross and Richard Graham, with Robin Thompson drop-kicking the only successful conversions for a somewhat flattering scoreline.

“Instonians already had a game under their belts and that probably showed in the early stages,” said Soper. “We’ve work to do but I was pleased with a number of things. Half-backs Lee Steenson and Shandon Scott combined well and the new players to the club, Mike Bentley and Fraser Mulholland showed that they will have important roles to play in the AIL squad.

“We also had four players graduating from last season’s U-18 squad in Ross Haughey, Andrew Jackson, Cameron Cromie and Alex Megaw. They all slotted in nicely, showing again the benefits of our strong youth policy.”

Bann travel to Queen’s on Friday evening (7.30pm kick-off) for the first game in the Ulster Championship League campaign. With a number of players unavailable the squad resources will be tested but Soper is confident that whatever starting XV he selects will give a good account of themselves.