Banbridge rounded off their Ulster Championship League campaign by taking maximum points from a seven-try 39-0 win over Ards, with an Andrew Morrison hat-trick in 13 minutes either side of the interval putting the game beyond Ards’ reach.
The game was only two minutes old when the home side’s slick threequarters put James Andrews in space down the left flank and the big winger streaked clear of the cover defence for the opening try.
Nine minutes later, tidy lineout possession saw the Bann backs swing into action again and this time the beneficiary was John Porter on the opposite wing as he finished off in his customary style with a try that Lee Steenson converted.
At this stage it looked as if Bann would romp home against the young Ards outfit. But the North Down men had other ideas and for the 20 minutes that followed they held sway, as Bann were forced into a rearguard action that only just held the visitors out, with one Stephen Irvine steal at a breakdown proving crucial.
It was against the run of play then, that Chris Allen increased his side’s lead. A trademark dummy 15 metres out from the visitors’ line took him past the frontline defence but the cover closed in and he had to carry two Ards players with him over the try line.
Bann’s ability to take advantage of any possession that came their way was underlined by the fourth try, scored two minutes before the break. An Ards ball was coughed up on the home 10 metre line and Steenson hacked through, following up with a couple more fly hacks to propel the ball into the Ards 22.
Andrew Morrison added his soccer skills and the ball popped up nicely to allow the centre to gather and cross for the first of his three tries.
Three minutes after the interval full-back Adam Doherty collected a clearance kick on half-way and rounded the chasing Ards defenders to take play inside the 22. His neat infield kick was collected by Morrison who had an unimpeded run to the posts, with Steenson’s drop kick adding the extras.
For the last of his trio of tries Morrison again came showed his array of skills as he chipped in behind the defence, hacked on before gathering and showed neat footwork and pace in beating two defenders to touch down.
Ryan Patterson’s full-blooded charges caused problems for the Ards defence all afternoon and Jonny Little almost finished off in the 54th minute, only for the final pass to go to ground with the line beckoning. But another score was inevitable and it duly came in the 70th minute, with Allen, who had impressed in his role at flanker, again using his power to burst through a couple of defenders and score at the posts. Steenson had not been enjoying the best of days with his kicking and his attempted drop goal missed the target as the referee’s whistle signalled the end of the game.
This result consolidates Bann’s sixth place in the UCL, with only Belfast Harlequins, with two games to play and a nine point deficit to make up, in a position to deny them a top half finish.
Bann coach Daniel Soper took the opportunity on Saturday to blood a number of the club’s U19 players and he will have been well pleased with the way they performed at senior level. Josh Coyle played virtually a full game on the left wing, with Andrews forced to withdraw from the action with a hamstring problem following his early score.
Then at half-time hooker Timothy Savage, prop Jonny McCreery and flanker Richard Graham took the field to play a full part as Bann increasingly dominated the exchanges. All four impressed with their skills and effort, with a couple of McCreery’s bullocking runs in particular catching the eye.
With no game this weekend Bann look forward to the visit of Naas on 12th April on what will be the final day of the AIL Division 2A season.