Bann so close to sealing third place

A BONUS point win in their penultimate game has left Banbridge within touching distance of a third place finish in this their first season in Division 2A of the All-Ireland League.

If their defence looked creaky at times, evidenced by Seapoint’s three tries, Bann more than compensated in attack as they ran in five tries.

With the in-form boot of scrum-half Ian Porter contributing 26 points through six penalties and four conversions, the visitors fell well short of meeting the requirement for a losing bonus point.

Two early penalties from Seapoint out-half Peter Leydon and one from Porter saw Bann facing a 3-6 deficit midway through the first half. But when No 8 Jonny Graham punched a hole in the visitors’ defence to set up quick ruck ball inside their “22”, out-half Adam Doherty found John Porter with a long pass and the winger cut inside the last defender to touch down.

Brother Ian added the conversion and kicked two more penalties to leave his side 16-6 ahead. Leydon added his third off the tee but Bann’s advantage was extended to 14 points when lock Chris Allen, whose strong tackle earlier had saved a certain try, held Ian Porter’s flipped inside pass to cross at the posts at the other end.

That cushion was reduced to a less comfortable nine points when just before the break centre Gary Foley found it all too easy to break through the home lines for an unconverted try after a scrum deep inside Bann’s “22”.

Five minutes after the break it was Foley again who made the incision in the Bann ranks, and although he was hauled down just short of the line, replacement Gavin Hayes took the pop pass to effect the touchdown, with Leydon’s conversion on target.

Porter kicked his fourth penalty in the 51st minute and added a conversion on the hour after Bann had made their superior scrummaging count by forcing the Seapoint eight to concede a penalty try.

Dangerman Foley again exposed the defensive frailties when he crossed for his second try, with Leydon converting, but that was to prove the visitors’ last contribution to the scoring as Bann stretched away over the final 15 minutes of the game.

Stephen Irvine’s powerhouse run took him bludgeoning past several defenders in a 30 metre run down the left flank. Ian Porter was up to take the flanker’s off-load and with the last defender closing he found replacement hooker Paul Ross with the scoring pass.

Porter’s sixth penalty put his side 16 points clear and Ashley Finlay picked up a wayward clearance kick to run in from 20 metres, with Porter’s fine conversion signalling the final whistle.

Despite being leading points scorers (422) and try bonus point winners in Division 2A, all nine successes having yielded a bonus point, Bann cannot fill one of the two promotion places, with Terenure and Corinthians having already booked their places in Division 1B next season.

But Bann are now just two points behind third-placed UCC. The students have to travel to table-toppers Terenure this Saturday for their last game while Bann host DLSP, with only a mathematical miracle, including a bonus point win, likely to save the Dublin side from relegation. That looks like a banker for the prolific Rifle Park outfit.

But then so did the final game of last season when relegation-threatened Wanderers travelled north to take on Bann when the home side needed a win to guarantee promotion. The Lansdowne Road side came out on top in that game but ironically results elsewhere saw them relegated to junior rugby and Bann promoted to Division 2A.

So the Bann players and coach Daniel Soper will take nothing for granted as they attempt to finish the season in style and secure the third place finish which would be an excellent return for a season which saw them play enterprising and entertaining rugby virtually throughout.