Rugby season gets up and running for Bann

Banbridge first team are all set for the new season.  Picture by Angus Bicker/
Banbridge first team are all set for the new season. Picture by Angus Bicker/

The local senior rugby season kicks off on Saturday with the visit of Instonians to Rifle Park.

The Belfast side will bring their First and Seconds squads to play Banbridge in friendlies as preparation for the league season which kicks off the following weekend.

Both clubs will take the opportunity to look at various combinations and to introduce new squad members.

Most interest for Bann will centre on Mike Bentley, a close-season signing from Dundalk who has been impressive in the seven weeks of pre-season training.

The back five forward is a welcome addition to the Bann ranks and he boosts a pack which should again be capable of laying the foundation for a winning side.

Bann will be without last season’s half-back pairing of Aaron Kennedy and Jonny Pollock, with the former spending a year in New Zealand honing his skills and the latter having returned to his home-town club Armagh.

Lee Steenson has re-joined the Bann ranks from junior club Dromore and he will slot into the scrum-half position vacated by Kennedy.

The No 10 shirt will be contested by Shandon Scott and Miles O’Hagan, but last season’s regulars in the outside back positions are all back in action and will laying strong claim to retain their starting jerseys.

Another signing from Dromore, Fraser Mulholland, will be vying with Peter Cromie for the position of hooker.

Bann coach Daniel Soper is looking forward to another season of rugby in Division 2A of the All-Ireland League.

“We finished strongly last season after an indifferent start and our top four finish reflected well on a good season’s work”, he said reflecting on the previous campaign.

“But we should be kicking on now with our sights on Division 1B.

“I am convinced that we have the power in the pack and the pace in the backline to do that.

“Instonians just missed out last season a on a return to the senior ranks and they will provide a useful test of our readiness for the challenges ahead.

“I am also looking forward to seeing our Seconds in action as we have had good numbers at training and there are several guys who look as if they could be pushing for places on the Firsts before the season is very old.

“I thought we generally played great rugby last year and scored some wonderful tries.

“I’m excited about the season ahead and I’m confident that the Bann supporters can look forward to watching positive, attacking and importantly winning rugby.”

Saturday’s action kicks off at Rifle Park at 4.30pm.

Bann’s game at Queen’s the following weekend has been brought forward to Friday 28th, with a 7.30pm kick off at the Upper Malone grounds.