Wednesday evening saw Banbridge travel to Deramore Park to play the postponed fixture in the Ulster Senior 2nd XV league. Belfast Harlequins were fielding a much changed side to the previous Saturday giving some younger players from down the club an opportunity to shine.
Prior to kick off the problems that had plagued manager Barry Dowling raised their head again with a late cry off but the bold Barry took out his boots and filled the position himself which was to have an unexpected input to the game.
The game started with Quins receiving the kick off, the forwards secured the ball and went through a couple of phases before releasing the young backline who did exactly what had been asked of them prior to kick off and locked in the defenders creating space which was filled by Barry Dowling on the right wing. he charged down the wing shrugging off two tackles and went in to score the first try of the match, converted by Tim Shaw, another find with his kicking boots.
Quins messed up the kick off giving Bann possession in their half and it was not long until they were awarded a penalty which they converted making the score 7 – 3.
Although Quins pack had not all played together they soon gelled and did well in the lineouts but Bann dominated the scrums, although in most cases this domination was thwarted by the hard working Quins back row and scrum half Josh McKee.
It was not long until Quins were on the attack again with an excellent backs move involving Dowling who again shrugged off a number of tackles and offloaded to supporting number 8, Neill Montgomery who crashed through the Bann defence to score a good try, converted by Shaw, 14 – 3.
Banbridge came back at the home side again putting pressure on the ball carrier and starting to dominate the mauls, after some time spent in the middle of the pitch, Bann broke free and scored a well worked try to the right of the posts but a good charge at the Bann outhalf did enough to put him off his kick and it pulled to the left of the posts.
After the restart and only 2 minutes of the half left bann conceded a penalty which Quins elected to kick to the corner, however Bann won the lineout but conceded another penalty in the middle of the pitch, Quins took this quickly but the attack was held up but again during play Bann infringed and gave away a penalty out wide of the posts, this time Shaw stood up and took the 3 points, 17 – 8.
The half was not over and on the final play Quins gave away a penalty infront of the post which Bann took making the halftime score 17 – 11.
The second half started poorly for the home side. nobody claimed the ball from kick off and Bann charged through to pick a lucky bounce keeping the momentum alive, they had learnt form Quins in the first half and off loaded good ball resulting in a try to the right of the posts which was converted putting the score at 17 -18 in favour of the visitors.
Quins seemed to start to play a more scrappy game than the first half but even though they were being dominated in the scrums they still managed to get good ball and attack Banns half. Good counter-rucking saw Quins being awarded 2 penalties which Shaw made sure of giving the home side a 23 -18 lead going into full time.
With 3 minutes to go, Quins captain Robbie Creighton made an excellent clearance kick from a pass back out of his 22 down to inside Banbridge’s 22, the ball bounced in the field of play and the referee awarded the lineout to Banbridge, as both teams formed the line out the linesman had indicated the ball went out on the full and referee brought play back to inside Quins 22 stating he had to go by the decision as he could not confirm the bounce himself. Banbridge won a good line out and with an excellent drive brought play up to Quins line but were held up as they crossed the line. They were awarded the scrum and from this won good ball only to be put back by the backrow defence, however a knock on by Quins saw the scrum reset, unfortunately for Quins Prop, Ivan Girvan had to leave the pitch with injury and this suited the attacking side, they won the uncontested scrum but again Quins defence held them out but the scrum was reset nearer to the posts creating a large blindside which Quins found hard to defend with one man down and the resultant try came 23 -23.
As Banbridge kicker addressed the ball for the conversion to win the referee indicated he had started the run up, again the quick reacting Quins players charged the kicker making him pull the kick wide, full time and a draw. With Banbridge’s strenght in the set piece and Quins strenght in defence and in open play this was a fair result.
This was a much improved performance by Harlequins and players put their hands up for selection, from a spectators point of view it was a very entertaining game showing the good level of rugby that is played in this League
Ireland Ladies Rugby I XV Are playing England this weekend and need as much support as they can get – please watch the clip below and feel free to share it, they are on the verge of a great VICTORY & with Ulster representation!