Banbridge were unable to mark the opening of their new pitch with a win, as visitors Ballynahinch proved their AIL Division 1A credentials with a four try success.
But Bann’s Assistant Coach Robert Ervine was far from despondent when reflecting on the result. “It was a very good workout for the squad and we were able to give 22 players a run,” he said. “With an hour played we were 16-11 ahead but their greater sharpness and strength told in the final quarter.
“We played very well at times but ‘Hinch were good at slowing down our ruck ball and that took the pace out of too many of our attacking moves.
“I still saw enough on Saturday to suggest we have the potential in the squad to enjoy a successful season.”
Two penalties from scrum-half Aaron Kennedy kept Bann in touch on a 6-11 interval scoreline. And when the pivot converted a third and added the extras to hooker Peter Cromie’s try, Bann were looking good for the win. But ‘Hinch showed their class in that closing quarter, adding three converted tries to see them home comfortably.
Bann start their Ulster Championship League campaign at Ards on Saturday and Ervine is confident of picking up a win. “We’re a Division above them in the All-Ireland so we’d expect to come out on top, especially as we should be selecting from a full squad,” he commented.
In the earlier game on the new Rifle Park turf, Bann’s Under-18 side and Ulster U-17s produced an all-action thriller. The home side dominated the early exchanges but couldn’t break down the provincial side’s defence, despite the best efforts of impressive wingers Curtis Jackson and Jordan Pickering, with the latter making his debut for the club.
The more intensive summer training regime which the Ulster side had undergone proved crucial in the end as they ran in three tries, one converted, for a 0-17 win.
But home coach Tim Honeyford was well pleased with his side’s performance. “Most of our backline was unavailable and we were glad to be able to field a number of ‘guest’ players from Banbridge Academy,” he said after the game. “I thought Jay Pinion showed up very well at scrum-half and up front hooker Andrew Jackson and Matthew Blain had excellent games.
“In the end Ulster’s greater fitness and teamwork were the difference between the sides. But it was a good start to our season and we expect to be very competitive again in the Ulster Premier League.”