Banbridge maintained their drive for promotion by avenging a single point defeat at UCC in November.
In that game the teams had shared seven tries but last Saturday two well-organised defences restricted the try tally to one, with the home side crossing the students’ line five minutes from the end to seal their win.
Bann Coach Daniel Soper knew his side had come through another tough test.
“That was a really tight game,” he commented as the strains of ‘Star of the County Down’ died out in the home changing room.
“The difference was that one moment when we had an opportunity to score and we took it. If we had played like that against any other team in the league we would have scored much earlier.”
The opening five minutes were played in the home “22” and UCC got their reward in the form of a Kevin O’Keefe penalty which proved to be the only score of a half in which both sides showed a high level of organisation and communication in their defences.
Bann had two prolonged attacks but in spite of going through multiple phases and producing some neat off-loads they were unable to make the breakthrough.
Adam Ervine had the first real scoring opportunity three minutes into the second half but, coming into the line from the wing, he just failed to hold an inside pass.
However, UCC were penalised at the five metre scrum that ensued, only for Adam Doherty’s attempt off the tee to glance off an upright and give the defence a “22” drop-out.
Peter Cromie’s determined run took play to the “22” for the students to concede another penalty and this time Doherty’s kick split the posts to level the scores.
After Stephen Irvine had been held up over the line in the 58th minute, UCC were again penalised at the scrum.
The No 8 took a quick tap only to be held out short of the line. But the referee spotted another infringement, waved his yellow card at the guilty party, and Doherty’s second penalty opened up a three point gap between the sides.
The full-back had put his earlier miss off the tee behind him as he proceeded to kick a third penalty with 67 minutes played, this time from 40 metres range as Bann continued to edge the exchanges.
With five minutes remaining UCC were going all out for the converted try they needed to take the points.
But Little’s well-timed tackle dislodged the ball and Andrew Morrison’s hack propelled it to the “22”.
Shandon Scott added his footballing skills before going down to retrieve the ball eight metres out from the line. It was quickly recycled and Doherty raced onto the pass to go in for the crucial score, adding the conversion to claim all his side’s points.
UCC attacked for the remainder of the game in an effort to salvage something but the home defence proved as unyielding as it had been in the previous 75 minutes.
Soper praised the performance of his pack. “I thought our scrum was excellent - it really stood out. James McCrum (prop forward) had a difficult time in the game at UCC but he was very good today.
“Mike Bentley had been sick in bed all week and we really hadn’t planned to use him off the bench today. But the early injury to Kallan Martin meant we had to bring Mike on for most of the game and he did really well.
“And Dale Carson got another game under his belt after missing a few weeks and he is back to near his best.
“Last week Adam Doherty won us the game at Cashel with his kicking and I thought he showed a great deal of character, maturity and composure to recover from a shaky start, including that missed kick, to nail three penalties and convert his own try.”
Bann’s next game is this Thursday at Deramore, where they play Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Championship League. And next up in the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League are Naas, who are sitting second in Division 2A, just six points behind Bann, who travel to take on the Kildare outfit on Saturday 30th January.