With six of their first choice pack unavailable, it was an unfamiliar Banbridge side that went down 24-7 to Belfast Harlequins at Rifle park on Saturday.
Bann’s assistant coach Robert Ervine, howeverm was far from despondent at the outcome. “Given the balance of play, I thought Quins were flattered by the final scoreline,” he said after the game.
“We had eight players unavailable but I was pleased with the way their replacements stepped up to the mark. I thought Richard Graham (flanker) showed his potential. Unfortunately his studies at Coleraine means he can’t train regularly at the club but he’s definitely one for the future.
“And the three other forwards who featured in the club’s U19 Cup-winning side last season, Lee Geddis, Tim Savage and Jonny McCreery, all again showed that they have the ability to perform well at senior level.
“And David Little (lock) – well he just is such a wholehearted player who gives his all every time he takes the field.”
With a makeshift side, some may have thought Bann would be under pressure up front but in fact it was out wide that the game was won and lost, with visiting winger Mark Glover running in a hat-trick of tries.
Certainly the Bann set scrum was more than capable of holding its own. Harlequins won an early scrum under the home posts but they were unceremoniously driven off the ball by a Bann eight belying its stand-in status.
Glover’s first strike came midway through the opening half. He fielded a clearance kick on halfway and set off on a swerving, tackle-busting run that took him clear of a disappointingly ineffective defence. Out-half Mark Best added the conversion.
But as Bann began to see more of the ball they began to pressurise the Quins line. Out-half Jonny Pollock’s half break was carried on by Adam Doherty and the centre’s well-timed pass to Shandon Scott put the full-back in under the posts, leaving Aaron Kennedy to add the simple conversion that tied the scores.
Just before the break, Glover struck again, finishing off after his forwards had recycled several times to create an overlap wide on the right.
Then on 64 minutes Glover completed his hat-trick as he tapped a quick penalty on halfway and sprinted clear of the flailing home defence, with Best’s conversion taking his side 7-19 clear.
The ‘Quins rolling maul was a potent weapon throughout the game and 10 minutes from the end it earned them the four-try bonus point as Adam Pollock finished off another strong drive.