BANBRIDGE recorded their tenth bonus point win in their final outing of the season, leaving them in third place in Division 2A of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League behind promoted Terenure and Corinthians.
While Coach Daniel Soper was evidently well pleased with his squad’s performance in their first season after promotion, he knew that Bann’s final tally of 51 points was one more than Malone needed to win promotion twelve months ago. However with the top two teams having picked up 63 and 62 points respectively, there was no denying their right to the promotion prizes.
After Saturday’s game Soper reflected on what he summarised as a very successful season on a number of counts.
“Firstly, finishing 3rd in division 2A after being promoted into this league last year is an excellent effort and one which we would have definitely taken in September”, he said. “Our target for the season was to get 10 wins and to improve our frequency of attaining four-try bonus points. On both counts we were successful as we achieved 10 wins and also gained 10 four-try bonus points which is the most by any team in all four Divisions.
“We have developed a positive style of play and the players have worked hard to improve their individual skills allowing us to play with ambition.
“The positive start we had to the league gave the players great confidence and leading the league for as long as we did was a new experience. However, we lost to the teams who finished above us in two very tough games directly after Christmas. These losses rocked us a little and probably were a factor in losing to Derry.
“I was extremely impressed with how the team finished the season. The Galway match was crucial and an excellent performance gave us the momentum to finish the season in style and finish third.
“Overall it has been an extremely enjoyable season working with players who have had a collective desire to be successful and with this continued application next season chasing a finish in the top two is a realistic target.”
Although Bann eventually ran in eight tries against the already-relegated DLSP, the first half-hour was littered with knock-ons, eleven in total, and all the home side had to show for their total domination was a brace of penalties from scrum-half Ian Porter.
DLSP made a single incursion into Bann’s “22” in the whole of the first half, but when they won a penalty for holding after the tackle they were unable to convert the simple penalty opportunity. When play moved to the other end, Porter took a quick penalty to put flanker Dale Carson in at the posts, with the former’s conversion moving the score up to 13 points.
The re-start kick went straight out and when Bann won a penalty at the scrum on halfway, the lineout ball won on the visitors’ “22” was mauled to within a few metres of the try line. After a couple of brief rucks the ball was moved right for full-back Gregg Taylor to take advantage of the overlap and cross for the second try.
Porter’s half break created the space for Michael Cromie to add a third try just before the interval, with the pivot adding the extras.
The second half was just two minutes old when Bann assured themselves of the try bonus point, with centre Andrew Morrison slicing through the visitors’ disorganised midfield defence to run in from 30 metres range.
The pressure on the south Dublin side was intensified by the loss of a player to the sin-bin for a technical offence and in his absence Bann ran in two further tries, with replacement hooker Jonny Murphy going in from close range and tight-head Cromie dragging a couple of defenders over the line with him. With Porter adding the extras to all three tries scored since the break, Bann were now 46 points clear.
Although out-classed, DLSP enjoyed a period of territory and possession, but the try that their efforts deserved continued to elude them. And when Bann resumed on the offensive Porter’s break off the base of a scrum sent Adam Doherty clear for the seventh try, which Porter converted.
And from the last set piece of the game, Bann’s superior scrum allowed Chris Allen to cross for the last score, the lock’s thirteenth of the season.