Banbridge gave their new pitch a stylish All-Ireland baptism on Saturday as they ran in four tries to get their league campaign off to the best possible start.
The win was all the sweeter coming as it did against a Cashel side which, on this showing, will win more games than they lose. The Co Tipperary visitors came equipped with a mighty pack which set its stall out from the first whistle as their forwards tried to bludgeon their way through the Bann defence.
Where Bann had the edge was in the back three, with full-back Adam Doherty and wingers Adam Ervine and John Porter raising the levels of the home supporters’ anticipation every time they got possession.
The young back three may have shared the tries among themselves but even they would accept that the foundation was laid by a hard-working pack, in which the tireless efforts of prop Stuart Cromie and the dynamism of open-side Nico Vorster stood out, along with the inspired running of centre Andrew Morrison, who played a leading role in two of the tries.
Two Aaron Kennedy penalties gave Bann an early 6-3 lead with Dara O’Brien scoring in between.
Morrison then took a feed off a ruck on halfway, broke through two tackles and made 40 metres before giving Ervine the scoring pass. Kennedy’s difficult conversion came in off the upright.
O’Brien was on target with a penalty before Porter initiated and finished off the second try, countering from inside his own half and touching down after the move had been carried on by Morrison and Ervine, with Kennedy again converting.
A further penalty apiece from O’Brien and Kennedy left the interval score at 23-9, but Cashel’s penalty had also seen Ryan Patterson yellow-carded. So when Vorster was also side-lined for 10 minutes early in the second half Bann were down to 13 men. The rolling maul that had already created problems for Bann was once again brought into play and against the under-strength defence, Cashel found it all too easy to set up a score for Number Eight Kieran Murphy, with O’Brien adding the extras.
Ervine’s mazy run saw Cashel infringe inside their 22 and Kennedy obliged with the simple kick. Porter picked up his second try when out-half Jonny Pollock found him with a miss pass from a scrum inside the visitors’ ‘22’.
That lineout-driving maul ploy did the trick for Cashel again, with hooker Niall Fitzgerald finishing off to bring the scoreline to 31-21 with 17 minutes remaining.
As centre Jonny Little was forced to retire injured, Doherty moved up to partner Morrison and he showed his attacking flair as he sliced between two defenders and out-paced the cover from halfway for the bonus point winning try.
Cashel’s outstanding flanker Ed Leamy gave his side hope of a bonus point as he followed up from a long drop-out to cross for a try which Pat O’Connor converted. But sadly for a side which had contributed so much to an entertaining game, they finished empty-handed.