Go Banbridge RFC: I XV Bann score seven past Old Wesley RFC I XV + Resolute II XV remain undefeated after visit of Quins

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Old Wesley 12 BANBRIDGE 1STs 35

Banbridge won the last of three mid-season friendlies in emphatic style, running in seven unconverted tries at Donnybrook in their final outing before the All-Ireland League programme resumes.

On the two previous weekends Bann had put in battling, although ultimately losing, performances against Malone and Queen’s. The two Ulster sides, like Old Wesley, compete in the Division above Bann, so the performances in the 12-8 loss at a muddy Gibson Park and a 29-42 reversal at the hands of the students were hardly discouraging.

A Ryan Patterson try and Robin Thompson penalty made up Bann’s tally at Malone and in the defeat to Queen’s Bann were outscored 7-5 on tries, with the immaculate boot of the students’ Ulster Ravens out-half James McKinney maximising their points tally. Bann had taken a 19-7 lead with tries from Andrew Morrison, Dale Carson and Adam Ervine before Queen’s racked up two tries either side of the interval to go 19-35 ahead.

Colin Bickerstaff’s 68th minute try from a 5 metre scrum was more than cancelled out by another converted Queen’s touchdown before home skipper Simon McKinstry crossed for the final score of an entertaining game.

With a number of players carrying knocks, the Bann squad that travelled to Dublin for last Saturday’s game showed several changes. And when Wesley scored an intercept try in the opening minutes it was looking ominous for the visitors. But that was to the last time the home side crossed the Bann line until the final play of the game yielded a second try.

In between it was Bann calling the shots, with Brendan Ward (2), Adam Ervine, Chris Allen, David Weir, John Porter and Andrew Kirkwood touching down.

With the important Nenagh game next up for Bann, this was a fine team display and perfect preparation for the trip to Co Tipperary. On their first visit to New Ormond Park, in the 2005-06 season, Bann went down 30-26 to the newly promoted Nenagh. Two years later the Rifle Park lads came home with a bonus point after a 43-3 success. But their most recent visit, in 2009-10, saw Nenagh come out on top on a 28-22 scoreline.

The Division 2B table shows Nenagh just five points behind Bann and Barnhall, who are both one point behind second-placed Rainey on 29 points. So Saturday’s result could have a big bearing on the final placings.

After the Christmas shut-down the Ulster League win at Instonians and more especially the performances in those three friendlies should ensure that Bann arrive at Nenagh well-placed to perform close to their best. The hope is that that will be good enough to bring home the winning points.

Resolute Seconds remain undefeated after visit of Quins

BANBRIDGE 2NDs 20 Belfast Harlequins 2nds 8

Belfast Harlequins Seconds visited Rifle Park on Saturday to face the Conference League pace-setters. The home club was fielding four senior teams, and as well as dealing with the unavailability of numerous players, they knew that their Belfast counterparts were not fielding a 1st XV which would have drained their resources. However, Bann produced a hugely gritty performance, 30 minutes of it with 14 men, to remain undefeated in this League.
In very difficult weather conditions, Bann made their intentions known early by concentrating their efforts with the traditional forward power. This pressure was forcing the visitors to concede penalties in their own “22”, and although Clarke McAllister was off target after 10 minutes, Bann remained encamped in the “22”, until the expected try came in the 15th minute. This time Albert Finney sent a huge penalty deep into touch near the ‘Quins line. The aggressive driving of the pack allowed Sam Boyd to crash over with the assistance of Lee Allen. The swirling wind carried McAllister’s conversion attempt off the post.
Five minutes later and McAllister got rewarded for his efforts when he converted a penalty to move the score to 8-0. This time it was awarded when ‘Quins got offside as they scrambled a defence when the Bann pack followed up a surging 30 metre run by lock Alan Conn.

Athough it was the Bann pack that had been calling all the shots, the backline were not to be outdone. Strong line breaks were also being forged, notably a scintillating 40 metre break by Albert Finney. The lineouts were also functioning effectively with Philip Jordan and Conn managing to disrupt the ‘Quins throws. But it was at scrum time that Bann really seemed to put the frighteners into the opposition as they comprehensively demolished the visitors’ pack all afternoon.

With five minutes of the half remaining, Bann scored their second try. The forwards set up the momentum on the halfway line, and Andy Cowan was able to feed Packie Downey on burst down the right wing. His strong running made 30 metres, and the supporting Allen showed great hands to carry the ball forward. ‘Quins again conceded the penalty and it was no surprise when Bann elected to scrum. A second set of the scrum gave the impression of a Bann pushover, but Cowan was able to catch the ‘Quins defence out by feeding Downey on the wing to score.

Soon afterwards Paul Ross was unlucky to knock on as he stretched to touch down. This was after an intense period of pressure on the ‘Quins line , set up after another break by Conn was supported by Finney. The driving of the pack, with Ross and James McCrum in the vanguard, was particularly effective.

On the re-start Bann, not for the first time this season, gifted the opposition points to draw the game back into an unnecessary contest. Firstly they conceded a soft try after two minutes through uncalled for pressure when they failed to clear from the kick off. Five minutes later Bann were down to play with 14 men when the brave challenge of Jordan Weir on the impressive Quins No8 resulted in him having to leave the field for treatment. This advantage seemed to give the visitors confidence, as five minutes later they converted a penalty to close the gap to 13-8.
This was when Bann began to show real guts and dig deep. Now a man down, and facing a ‘Quins onslaught, the pack deserves enormous credit for soaking up all the pressure in their own “22” , before retaining the ball through a huge number of phases to inch their way out of the danger zone. This eventually resulted in Harlequins being forced to concede the penalty that allowed Finney the chance to boot the ball down the line.

Although there were some periods when the visitors gained ground but they were time and again met by a resolute , if sometimes desperate, defence.

With the clock running down, it was the 14 men of the home team that delivered the killer score with eight minutes remaining. The backs had initially moved them into the “22”, and then the pack took over as they found energy from somewhere to exert a lot of pressure on the ‘Quins defence. It was no surprise when Cowan got the try, as he had commanded the pack-to-back link all day. McAllister’s great conversion ended the scoring.

The pick of the backs was Cowan, and although the pack worked superbly as a unit, the player who stood out was prop James McCrum. For the second week in a row he produced a fine performance, not just in the loose, but in the scrum where he revels.

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