BELFAST Harlequins Seconds were visitors to Rifle Park for a league fixture, with Bann fielding a team greatly changed from the previous match due to call-ups and unavailability.
However, that seemed to spur on the players who came in, as the team went on to record a 29-5 victory, which was probably even more impressive than the scoreline suggests.
Bann elected to play into the wind in the first half, and for the first five minutes it was Harlequins who started the brighter, but they were steadily controlled as the home team began to impose themselves in most facets of the game. The scrum was powerful as ever, the line-out steady, and with the backs looking particularly sharp, the forwards were able to show confidence to run ball in open play.
As Bann continued to press, Harlequins were being forced into conceding penalties, and then found themselves losing further ground when penalised for back-chat to the referee. Bann produced pressure on the home line when Shandon Scott sent penalties deep into the visitors half.
On 17 minutes, after a line-out, Bann spread the ball wide but a further penalty was conceded by ‘Quins as the home team closed in on the try line, and Bann obviously chose to scrummage.
When they drove forward, ‘Quins were caught out by Bann releasing the ball early. Full-back Adam Waugh joined the line and showed great strength in stretching for the opening score. Clarke McAllister was unlucky with the difficult conversion to leave the score 5-0.
The next period of play saw Bann up the tempo yet again, and surging bursts through the visitors’ defence by Albert Finney, Lee Allen and most notably Alan Conn had the home team in full control. During this spell Jonny McKim was unlucky to be held up after crossing the line with a strong run from close in.
Another fantastic line break by Scott, from inside his own half, completely opened the defence. McAllister was in support to receive the offload 40 metres out. He was able to cross the line just as the tackle came in and the referee arrived to see him being held up, albeit after the grounding.
Undismayed, Bann maintained the pressure on the line and No 8 Charles Gallagher showed great confidence, skill and strength to lift the ball from the base of the scrum and score near the posts. McAllister’s conversion moved the score on to 12-0.
Bann showed that they were also capable in defence, with Finney and Michael Runciman combining to snuff out a ‘Quins attack on the left flank.
With the second half only a minute old, the lead was stretched to 19-0. Bann had used the wind to pen ‘Quins in their own half and when McKim decided to take a charge from a maul ten metres out, he found the strength to burst through and score in the corner. Scott added the extras with the impressive touchline conversion.
Bann were able to use the wind to keep play in ‘Quins territory and mid-way through the half Scott slotted a 40 metre penalty just to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
With the game drawing to a close, Bann scored their fourth try through impressive centre Finney. When the forwards once again provided the platform off a scrum, patient ball retention saw Finney run in at speed for a deserved try. Scott added the simple conversion for a 29-0 lead.
Harlequins were rewarded for their endeavours against a superior Bann team when they ran in a try on the final whistle.
This was a game enjoyed by players and supporters alike. With players such as Finney, Conn and McKim playing excellent games, the newer players in the team such as winger Runciman and scrum half Hugo Harbinson were able to shine, but the all-round play of Gallagher saw him stand out that little bit more.