A resurgent Banbridge edged away from the relegation zone and dented City of Derry’s All Ireland League promotion hopes on Saturday, deservedly picking up a third win of the season by a 28-13 score-line.
“We were even better than in the wins against Ballymena and Rainey,” said a delighted coach Daniel Soper.
“I thought our defence was excellent. We’ve had a number of tight games this season where we’ve just come up on the wrong side of the ledger, so it was good to edge this one against a good Derry side. We have struggled to beat them in recent seasons so that made it all the sweeter.”
With the Rifle Park pitches unplayable, Bann had been granted use of the local Academy pitch. However, it was the visitors who settled the quicker, winning two penalties in the first six minutes, one of which Richard Baird converted for the early lead.
When Bann eventually broke out of their own half, they won a penalty just inside Derry territory which Ian Porter struck beautifully to level the scores.
Two minutes later, Jonny Graham won ball at the tail of a lineout, centre Andrew Morrison’s angled run took him clear of the front-line defence and his power and pace carried him over to touch down at the posts, Porter converting.
Baird’s second successful effort off the tee reduced the leeway but by the 35th minute Bann were 16-6 ahead thanks to two more Porter penalties.
The Ulsterman then produced a sizzling break off the base of a ruck. He linked with Peter Cromie and the young hooker‘s superbly delivered long pass put Morrison in space.
The final ball to Hugo Harbinson still left the winger with work to do but he created just enough space to touch down at the corner. Porter’s excellent conversion put Bann 17 clear.
After Baird had stormed through some ineffectual tackling into Bann’s 22, scrum-half Simon Logue nipped over in the corner for the flanker to convert just three minutes after the break. That looked likely to set the visitors up for a revival but with Bann increasingly dominant at the breakdown, play became focused in the visitors’ half.
A kickable penalty was instead sent to the corner for a Bann lineout and the tactic eventually paid off. James Andrews and Stephen Irvine were stopped short by the defence but Simon McKinstry’s extra poundage proved critical when he picked up close to the line and touched down.
The game finished with a flurry of dismissals, Bann being reduced to twelve men in the final five minutes as they battled to contain a late Derry rally.
Bann now travel to Bruff on Saturday.
“We need to kick on but Bruff produced a great result against Naas, their first win of the season, so it won’t be easy,” said Coach Soper. “We came through Saturday with no injury concerns so we can field a similar line-up and focus on our performance.”