September 17, 2011
Banbridge and Ards went into this Ulster League game both looking for their first win of the season. But it was clear from the opening exchanges why the North Down side had already shipped heavy defeats at the hands of Armagh (47-13) and Ballymena (71-3) as Bann began to run up the points at the rate of close to one a minute.
By half-time the tally was 34-3 and although there was a lull in the scoring in the third quarter the home side eventually racked up ten tries, with a single penalty the only reply Ards could muster.
Adam Ervine was first off the mark for Bann, the scrum half nipping in from close range in the third minute. Jonny Pollock was held up over the line four minutes later, but from the 5-metre scrum that followed No 8 Stephen Irvine was able to take advantage of a retreating Ards pack to secure the second touchdown, with Robin Thompson converting.
Irvine then picked up from a set scrum to make 30 metres before feeding Pollock with the scoring pass for the third try. A brief foray into home territory allowed Ards out-half Paul Cox to kick his side’s only points, but as Bann resumed on the offensive Pollock picked up a neat feed from Thompson to cross for his second try, converted by Thompson, with less than 20 minutes on the clock.
And the full-back made it a hat-trick on the half-hour after Ervine had scooped back a loose ball to set him on a 40 metre run to the try-line.
Ards scrum-half Kyle Agnew was denied a try five minutes before the break, the referee adjudging the ball to have been knocked on in the movement. And Bann added to the visitors’ misery before the interval, with lock Chris Allen barnstorming through three defenders after a quickly taken penalty inside the Ards “22”.
With an improving wind blowing at the visitors’ backs in the second half and a run of injuries continually interrupting the flow of play, there was no further scoring until the final twelve minutes of the game, although Ards had the best chance after Bann were penalised trying to run the ball from deep.
Andrew Kirkwood’s scintillating 45 metre run set up Dale Carson for Bann’s seventh try in the 68th minute. Then James Andrews took advantage of a quick penalty to power his way through a demoralised Ards defence.
Thompson added the extras to both scores before skipping through the defence to touch down at the posts and kick the conversion.
The final score came with the last move of the game, John Porter capping a fine performance in his first start for the Firsts by touching down in the corner after Bann had retained possession through multiple phases.
Bann coach Daniel Soper was naturally pleased with his team’s performance. “There was some very good movement out there today,” he said after the game. “And the injuries in the squad have allowed some of the other players to come through and develop their game at senior level. We’re now better placed in terms of squad depth.
“But Armagh on Saturday will be a big test, especially with the AIL game between the sides coming up in a month.”
Bann will still have a number of players unavailable for Saturday’s home clash with Armagh. Skipper Simon McKinstry, Colin Bickerstaff and Ryan Patterson are still carrying injuries while Jonny Murphy and Andrew Morrison are on Ulster U-20 duty.
And with the visitors showing impressive form since their return to the senior ranks, Bann will do well to get the win they would want to take into the first All-Ireland game of the season, the following Saturday at home to Navan.
Bann team v Ards:- Jonny Pollock, John Porter, Jonny Little, James Andrews, Andrew Kirkwood, Robin Thompson, Adam Ervine, Michael Cromie, Paul Ross, Brian Hanna, Chris Allen, Alan Conn, Dale Carson, Mark Wilson, Stephen Irvine. Replacements:- David Weir, Nelson Shanks, Andrew Baird, Neville Farr, Geoff Thompson.
BANBRIDGE 2NDs 32 Ards 2nds 7
September 17, 2011
Bann Seconds did enough to win this Second XV League game without ever reaching the level of performance of which the team is capable.
Ards were more positive in the opening 10 minute period and can count themselves unlucky not to have registered a try when they were held up over the line on three separate occasions, with Bann not seeming to get out of first gear to fully relieve their lines.
However it was Bann who registered the first points, debutant Jake Fisher slotting over from 25 metres after Ards were penalised for having a lazy runner when the home team were threatening for the first time from quick ruck ball.
After 25 minutes, Bann doubled their lead through a penalty from out-half John Ferris, this time awarded when the visitors were caught offside after Bann forged forward from an initial break by Ferris himself.
Although Bann were showing dominance in the forwards and most notably at the set scrum, they were not able to produce any fluent link to their backline. They therefore elected to keep the scoreboard ticking over with another Ferris penalty effort five minutes from the interval.
The half time team talk highlighted the lack of urgency in play, and it took only two minutes from the restart for them to respond. A powerful drive by Sam Boyd was well supported by Ferris and Nelson Shanks whose slick passing brought play into the “22” where Ards were again forced to concede a penalty in front of the posts. Ferris slotted over to move Bann into a 12-0 lead.
Ferris was again on target 10 minutes later, thus allowing the home team a lead to play with even though they were not firing on all cylinders. Four minutes later the comfort cushion of the scoreline told when Ferris opened up the defence with a neat chip which was collected by Andy Baird. The quick support of captain Geoff Thompson gained more yardage before he fed Fisher. Unfortunately the supporting pack knocked on five metres out. Not to be deterred, the pack surged forward and took the ball at ease against the head, and with Ards expecting a pushover, Sam Boyd was able to pick up and barge through the defender for a well-taken try. Ferris was just off target with the conversion attempt.
Seven minutes later and Bann crossed the line again. A quick tap was called off a free kick near the half way line, and Lee Allen started the surge forward. When he was stopped, his strength allowed the off-load to Michael McKee, and the burly forward took the drive even further on. Again it was another tight five forward in prop James McCrum who received the ball and showed great strength in finishing. Ferris moved the score on to 27-0 with the conversion.
Bann failed to build on their lead and apart from sporadic forays towards the line, they were being kept in the middle of the park by a spirited Ards team. The glimpses of interplay in the backs eventually paid off when the other debutant, winger Chris Craig, finished off a slick move. Again it was Thompson who made the break and found Boyd. His strength provided the gap on the touchline for the winger to collect and race in for the try.
Ahead at 32 – 0, Bann will have been bitterly disappointed to allow the visitors to score a converted try, but this was a fitting reward for an Ards team that never showed any frustration, even when decisions didn’t seem to go their way.
On a day when most of the Bann team would acknowledge that they played below par, the comforting factor is that they can still produce a result, although the next two games should be much tighter affairs.
Although there were good performances in the backs from Adam Waugh, Ferris and Thompson, it was the back row trio of Jonny McKim, Baird and Boyd who stood out, with the latter just getting the nod for his second man-of-the-match award in a row.