Magnificent Bann seal Plate win with seven scorers

It's celebration time for Banbridge U-17s, newly crowned Ulster Plate champions.
It's celebration time for Banbridge U-17s, newly crowned Ulster Plate champions.

A blistering opening 35 minutes, during which they crossed the Portadown line eight times, secured the Ulster U17 Plate for Banbridge in emphatic terms.

That opening half saw the Rifle Park side at their mesmerising best, with the power and pace of their attacks repeatedly stretching the Portadown defence to breaking point.

The opening score set the pattern. James Waugh’s 35 metre run was halted just short of the line and when the ball was recycled from a subsequent ruck, hooker Andrew Jackson crashed over from close range, with Jordan Mullan adding the conversion into a testing wind.

Left-winger Adam Reaney’s scorching run took play from his own 22 to the Portadown 10-metre line. The ball was again recycled without delay from the ruck and moved left to outside centre Waugh, who sprinted the 40 metres to the try line.

Portadown tried to use the extra poundage of their tight five forwards to bludgeon their way through the Bann lines but with Jackson and flanker Adam Cromwell leading the way in a solid defensive line, it was to prove a largely forlorn tactic.

The third try followed in the 20th minute, with Josh Cromie making the initial break for Reaney to capitalise as he raced in from the 22 for a try which Mullan bettered.

Three minutes later it was the turn of Andrew Hutchinson on the left flank to finish off a move from Cromie’s tap penalty just outside his own 22. Prop Ross Haughey powered his way through to make the halfway line and the threequarters took over, with the streamlined handling of out-half Alex Walker and centres Cameron Cromie and Waugh putting Hutchinson in the clear. Mullan again was on target with the conversion.

Portadown found a gap in the Bann defence seven minutes before the interval, with number eight Jamie Dickson crossing in the corner. But normal service was quickly resumed as Bann added two more converted scores before the break. Cameron Cromie was given too much space following a scrum on the Portadown 22 and he took full advantage, running in unopposed for the fifth try.

Then, after lock Adam Ferris had done the spadework with a bullocking run, skipper Alexander Megaw was well placed to take the off-load and steam in under the posts, with Mullan’s fifth conversion taking Bann 40-5 clear at the interval.

It was perhaps inevitable that some of the bite would go out of the game after the re-start.

Thirteen minutes had elapsed before Bann added to their score, with Cromwell up in support of Josh Cromie’s tap penalty to run in from 15 metres range. Portadown, however, steadily built up the pressure on the Bann lines and they were rewarded with a second unconverted try though flanker Cameron Swift.

That may have salvaged some deserved pride for the opposition but there was no denying Bann’s right to lift the trophy thanks to a first half display that topped anything the side had shown this season in terms of performance.

Seven tries from seven different players gives an indication of the team-work involved in this fitting climax to a season that could have yielded so much more had it not been for a series of early-season injuries to key players which seriously impacted on the league campaign.

BANBRIDGE: Jordan Mullan, Adam Reaney, James Waugh, Cameron Cromie, Andrew Hutchinson, Alex Walker, Josh Cromie, Matthew Blain, Andrew Jackson, Ross Haughey, Adam Ferris, Robin Hewitt, Adam Cromwell, Conor Burns, Alex Megaw (C). Replacements:- Lee Jackson, Andrew Harvey, Max Buller, Curtis Jackson, Jake Dennison.