Banbridge Coach Daniel Soper described his team’s bonus point win over visitors Cashel as “exceptional.”
“When you consider the horrendous conditions in which the game was played I think the players take great credit for picking up a bonus point today,” he said after the match.
“I told them that they had been rewarded for the effort they had put into training in the last two weeks when there were no games. Cashel had been sitting just below us in the table but we were dominant in nearly every facet of play.
“But the extreme weather made handling difficult and Cashel worked hard defensively so I was delighted to pick up that fourth try near the end.”
The visitors were driven off the ball on their own put-in at the first set-piece and at the second, just five metres out from Bann’s line, they were penalised. Their pack never fully recovered from those early psychological blows and Bann capitalised on the pressure with an Adam Doherty penalty from 35 metres with 12 minutes played.
With the rain falling steadily it was testament to Bann’s skill levels that they were able to produce a try of the highest quality four minutes later. Stephen Irvine did the initial damage with a scorching run off the base of a scrum. He set Adam Ervine off on a run down the left flank and although Cashel retrieved the ball at the tackle, the clearance kick was fielded by Mike Bentley. He set up a ruck on the “22” and when the ball was transferred through several sets of hands to the opposite flank, John Porter rounded his opposite number to touch down for the opening try.
Cashel hit back but were unable to take advantage of a penalty opportunity before their most sustained assault of the game found the home defence at its stubborn best.
Four minutes before the interval and with the driving sleet now in the faces of the home team, out-half Robin Thompson took advantage of a quick penalty to weave his way through the fractured Cashel defence for the second unconverted try.
Cashel picked up their only points of the game on the stroke of half-time, with prop Danny Lambe producing the finishing touch to a driven five-metre lineout.
After a slightly extended break, the two teams emerged from the shelter of the changing rooms to resume hostilities in the difficult overhead conditions. Bann’s domination of the exchanges was even more pronounced after the break and after five minutes encamped in the “22” they were denied a third try by a knock-on under the posts.
Doherty converted a simple penalty chance on 55 minutes and after Peter Cromie’s determined burst had been held up over the Cashel line, the home eight’s scrummaging power was brought into play again. The visitors went into retreat at the set piece and lock Chris Allen effected the touchdown for a third unconverted try.
Bann might have been happy to settle for the four points given the conditions but as Cromie led the way, his dynamic running punching holes in the Cashel line, the pressure eventually told as flanker Dale Carson went in under the posts for Doherty to add the conversion.
Afterwards, Soper reflected on a job well done and looked forward to Saturday’s game at Queen’s: “I always felt that this series of three games could well define the season. We’ve got off to a great start but the two games against Queen’s are likely to be our toughest of the lot.
“You can see how their results have picked up as they’ve got their players back from Ulster representative duty. So we’re going to have to be at our very best to turn them over, especially on Saturday when they’re playing on their own patch.
“We’re sitting on top of the table now but that could all change very quickly with the top six teams so tightly grouped.”