Banbridge eventually saw off the challenge of a highly-motivated Instonians side to take their place in the last four of the Ulster Senior Cup.
Bann coach Daniel Soper was delighted that his side had given themselves the chance to play in a second final at Ulster Rugby Headquarters in three seasons. “It’s brilliant to be in the semi-final and now just 80 minutes away from playing at the new, improved Ravenhill. That would be a great bonus for the players and everyone involved,” he said in the aftermath of Saturday’s game.
“We took a bit of time to settle in today and Instonians started very well. Maybe there was a bit of luck with a couple of our scores but luck is something that hasn’t been on our side too much this year, so we’ll take it when it comes along.
“Sometimes you need luck and we were a bit fortunate with those two tries, but they gave us momentum and confidence. I thought we played very well in the second half and put the game to bed.”
After weathering that initial Instonians storm, Bann applied pressure at the other end on the back of Adam Doherty’s long raking kick to the corner which set up three five-metre scrums. However, the last of those saw the visitors penalised and the immediate threat to the home line was lifted.
The Inst line was soon under pressure again and Adam Ervine was tackled short of the try line in the left hand corner. The ruck ball was transferred to the other flank and after a number of re-cycles Bann lock Jonny Graham forced his way over for the opening try, which Doherty did well to convert.
Straight from the re-start scrum-half Andrew Hyde put in two testing box kicks, the second of which found its way into the hands of Bann No 8 Matthew Irvine, who raced clear of the Inst defence on a 30 metre run to the posts, leaving Doherty’s conversion a formality.
If the final bounce of Andrew Morrison’s chip ahead gave further evidence of fortune favouring the visitors, the centre’s strong running from inside his own half had opened up the defence to create the scoring opportunity. That bounce under the posts fell nicely to allow Morrison to touch down and the inevitable conversion stretched Bann’s lead to 21 points.
Instonians still posed a threat when they kept ball in hand and the Bann defence opened up too easily to let their Kiwi out-half, Ryan Aperehana, in for a converted try. A second try, from full-back Adam McCarthy, further reduced the half-time deficit to 12-21. And when the home No 10 kicked an early second half penalty Bann’s lead was beginning to look vulnerable.
But Simon McKinstry finished off after Bann had re-cycled through several phases and debutant scrum-half Hyde capped a fine display by crossing for the fifth try as Bann’s increasing domination at the set pieces allowed them to dominate the exchanges. Doherty was again on target with the conversions, adding a late penalty for good measure.
Bann now travel to take on Seapoint in their third All-Ireland League game on the back of comprehensive wins over Rainey and Instonians.