Banbridge RFC Notes: I XV 22 v Belfast Harlequins RFC I XV 23, Mulholland Seals II XV Win

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Late Quins fightback denies Bann

When Matthew Johnston raced in at the left hand corner for an unconverted try that extended Bann’s lead to nine points with seven minutes remaining, a winning start to the season looked odds on for the home team.

But Belfast Harlequins won a penalty from the re-start which Jonny Holmes struck between the posts. And from the last move of the game the visitors again broke through a home defence that had looked brittle throughout the game to put replacement Andrew Gillespie in for a try which Holmes converted to secure the win.

With Bann fielding all five summer signings it was perhaps understandable that their play lacked fluency in the early stages. However with the wind at their backs and Harlequins already having to draw on their bench because of injury, space was created for right winger Adam Ervine to grab the opening try in the 6th minute.

Just before the break ‘Quins rounded off a period of pressure when prop Tom Fraser drove over from close range to take the interval score to 7-5.

Winger Eddie Hamilton took advantage of untidy ruck ball to cross the home line in the 52nd minute, with Holmes again failing with the attempted touchline conversion in the gusting wind. Six minutes later he hit the target from a better angle to give his team a 7-13 lead.

It was to prove short-lived. Bann won a penalty from the re-start which was kicked to the corner and ‘Quins were penalised at the lineout. Bann opted for the scrum and replacement centre Jonny Little forced his way through a couple of attempted tackles to make the try line, with Porter adding the extras. The scrum-half then slotted over a penalty after ‘Quins deliberately wheeled a scrum, taking the score to 17-13.

Surging runs from lock Ryan Patterson and centre Andrew Morrison had the ‘Quins defence fully stretched before Johnston went in for the third home try that should have secured the win. But Bann’s failure to close the game out let their city opponents away with the four Ulster League points, with Bann picking up a solitary point for the narrow defeat.

This Saturday Bann travel to Ballymena in the first round of the Ulster Senior Cup, the competition in which the two teams fought out last season’s Ravenhill final. The Eaton Park side edged the exchanges on that occasion, with a battling Bann performance earning the admiration of many neutral observers.

It will take a considerable step up on Saturday’s display, especially in defence, if Bann are to have a chance of progressing in this season’s competition.

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