“If you’d offered me two points at half-time I’d have taken them.”
That was Bann Coach Daniel Soper’s honest comment after he had watched his side claw their way back to earn a 19-19 draw after going 16 points behind at the break.
“But after ten minutes of the second half we’d put ourselves in a position to go and win the game,” continued Soper.
“We didn’t do that but nevertheless it was good because that’s the first time we’ve been under real pressure this season and I thought we reacted well.”
Queen’s out-half Jack Milligan kicked his side into a third minute lead with a fine penalty and with Bann struggling somewhat at the set piece, it was the student side that dominated territorially for much of the opening half-hour.
Milligan repeated the trick with a second penalty from 35 metres midway through the first half and when Bann lost the lineout which followed the re-start, Queen’s kicked to touch deep inside the visitors’ 22.
Ian Porter’s clearance kick was fielded and run back and good handling put flanker Nick Timoney in for a try in the left corner. Milligan again found the target off the tee and then slotted over a neat drop goal.
Turning to enjoy the elements at a wind-and-rain-swept Dub, Bann went immediately on the attack, winning a lineout from Andrew Magrath’s penalty punt into the corner.
With ball secured, the forwards drove the maul before a series of pick-and-goes ended with prop Stuart Cromie crossing under the posts, Magrath adding the conversion.
The visitors made further inroads into the points deficit in the 47th minute, when Magrath’s exquisite crossfield kick was collected by Robin Sinton, with the young flanker finishing off in the corner. Magrath’s attempted conversion rebounded off the upright.
With 10 minutes remaining, Stephen Irvine’s strong running set up a chance for Adam Ervine, but just as the left winger seemed to be winning the race to the grubber, he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
But the students were now firmly on the rack and after Dale Carson had made the half-break through the Queen’s ranks, the ball was moved left and Ervine’s replacement, Simon Lloyd, finished off in the corner.
Magrath’s conversion from the touchline tied the scores to set up a thrilling finish, but in spite of a penalty opportunity for each side in the dying minutes, there was no further scoring.
Soper said that following last season’s bonus point wins over Queen’s, his side may not have been expecting the battle they got.
“To be fair, Queen’s played much better in the first half than they did in similar conditions last season when they didn’t kick the ball,” he said. “Today they kicked well, put us under pressure and it was difficult to play back up into that wind – the total of three points scored at that end proves that.”
Soper wasn’t going to criticise his out-half, who like the Queen’s counterpart, missed with a late shot at goal: “I thought Andrew Magrath had another excellent game. Defensively he was very strong, his catch-pass was good, he orchestrated the team’s better shape in the second half and put in a fantastic cross-field kick for the second score.”
BANBRIDGE: A Doherty, J Porter, A Morrison, J Little, A Ervine, A McGrath, I Porter
M Cromie, P Cromie, S Cromie, C Allen P Jordan, R, Sinton, D Carson, S Irvine
Replacements: L Allen, J McCrum, M Bentley, J Cromie, S Lloyd