RUGBY: ‘Keep it in our hands’ says Bann coach

Banbridge will host their first game of the year at Rifle Park on Saturday. INBL1548-268EB
Banbridge will host their first game of the year at Rifle Park on Saturday. INBL1548-268EB
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Banbridge Head Coach Daniel Soper is demanding a big performance from his side this weekend.

They welcome University College Cork to Rifle Park (kick-off 2.30pm) knowing a defeat could take the title out of their hands.

UCC are currently eight points behind but have a game in hand on the table-toppers. And Soper is determined to keep them at arm’s length.

“They’re in the mix,” he said. “If they win that game in hand, they’re right up there but if we can beat them on Saturday, it’s another team waiting for us to slip up.”

Soper is demanding a reversal of Bann’s narrow defeat the last time the sides met back in November.

They were 24 points down at half-time that day before staging a remarkable comeback to lead 26-24 with just two minutes on the clock.

An injury-time penalty though, condemned Soper’s side to the most gauling of last gasp defeats, a feeling that is still fresh in the mind of the Banbridge coach.

“It was pretty hard to take,” he said.

“We let ourselves down that day with the first half performance so we want to set that straight this weekend. Hopefully we can get a reaction from the boys on Saturday.”

Banbridge are unbeaten at Rifle Park in 11 Ulster Bank League matches. It’s over 15 months since Thomond left the ground victorious.

And that is a run Soper is determined to stretch right through the current season.

He said: “We’re in good form at home and haven’t been beaten so that’s a record we want to keep going as well.

“With seven games to go, winning our home games is very important. This is also our first game of the year at Rifle Park so hopefully the boys will be well up for it. I’m sure that won’t be an issue.”

Soper is not without his selection issues for the game. Ethan Harbinson is off back to university while Ryan Patterson is unavailable and the match could come too soon for injury victim Nico Vorster. That could pave the way for an Ulster Bank League debut for Robin Sinton, who impressed against Dungannon in the Ulster League before Christmas.