BANBRIDGE go into Saturday’s final game of their All-Ireland League Division 2B campaign knowing that a win over Wanderers will earn them promotion for the first time since they joined the ranks of senior rugby 14 seasons ago.
On paper it looks like a banker – second-placed Bann at home against the side propping up the 16-team league.
But after a blistering run of five bonus point wins Bann have faltered in their last two outings.
A two point defeat to fellow promotion challengers Barnhall was perhaps understandable, but when that was followed by an 11-10 reverse at lowly Sunday’s Well, alarm bells began to ring in the minds of the Bann supporters.
Conversely Wanderers have shown significantly improved form in their recent outings, with only a late score at the Aviva Stadium earning league toppers Cashel the success against the Dublin side that maintained their 100% AIL record this season.
There can be no doubt that Wanderers, one of the oldest rugby clubs in the country, will travel north totally committed to maintaining the senior status that has been theirs since league rugby was played in Ireland.
And as they lie two points behind second-bottom team Ards, only a win over Bann will give them any chance of avoiding the drop.
Conversely Bann lie two points ahead of Barnhall, so a home win will see them joining Cashel in Division 2A next season. So Saturday’s confrontation is all set to be an absorbing contest, with so much at stake in different ways for the two sides.
Bann coach Daniel Soper will hope to select from a full panel, although doubts remain over full-back Brendan Ward and out-half Robin Thompson, neither of whom finished the game at Sunday’s Well.
Bann at their best are well capable of getting the win they need. But they will certainly need to step up on their recent performances and no-one knows that better then the players themselves.
Saturday’s game at Rifle Park kicks off at 2.30pm