Banbridge lose out to Ballynahinch as difference in divisions is underlined
The difference in class between Divisions 1A and 2A of the All-Ireland League was underlined in the first half of this Ulster Championship League game as Ballynahinch registered five converted tries without reply.
The Ballymacarn Park side are hoping to finish their league programme in fourth position in the top AIL Division and so qualify for the play-offs and they were quick to underline their quality against a Bann side albeit missing half of their regular pack.
With lock James Simpson and impressive flanker Jonny Madden punching holes up front the home backs were able to capitalise with Roger McBurney in particular finding too many gaps in the Bann defence.
The full-back ended up with a hat-trick of tries but he was also the creative force behind a couple of others.
McBurney kicked off the first half scoring spree in the 12th minute and by the 21st minute ‘Hinch were 28-0 ahead, with the unerring boot of out-half Richard Reaney adding the conversion points regardless of where along the try line the ball had been dotted down.
Bann prop James McCrum’s yellow card just before the interval eased the home side’s way to a pushover try and when Chris Allen followed him to the sin-bin three minutes after the break ‘Hinch again exacted full retribution with their sixth try, this time from a lineout and driving maul which the 13 men in the visitors’ ranks were unable to contain.
Andrew Morrison led a brief Bann revival with a try on 49 minutes, converted by Aaron Kennedy but the Bann defence was again found wanting when Reaney sauntered in untouched from 30 metres.
Still Bann stuck to their task and got further reward when Jonny Little won the race to a ball hacked through from the home “22”.
Morrison then drove through the ‘Hinch midfield to set up a ruck under the posts and a couple of re-cycles later the centre drove over from close range, with Adam Doherty converting for a 49-19 scoreline.
After the home ranks had been reduced by Paul Pritchard’s yellow card,
Bann picked up a fourth try, with Doherty’s counter-attacking run setting up good field position for Morrison to complete his hat-trick, with Doherty’s attempted conversion rebounding off the cross-bar.
McBurney had kick-started the scoring and it was probably appropriate that he finished it off, but again Bann will have been disappointed with their defensive work as the home full-back found a gap all too easily to round behind the posts, with Reaney’s conversion sealing another five-pointer for the Ulster League champions-elect.
Injury problems have exposed the lack of depth in Bann’s ranks but coach Dan Soper will he hopeful of fielding something close to a full side when Division 2A champions Old Wesley visit Rifle Park on Saturday for the last game of the season.
The Dublin side had their 100% record blemished when Naas recorded a single point win over them the week before the Kildare side beat Bann by a seven point margin.
They will no doubt want to wrap up their season with a win to send them into Division 1B on a high.
But equally Bann will want to consolidate their fourth place ranking and with home advantage they have every chance of doing just that.