Banbridge 45-21 Queen’s
Although neither side was at full strength for this Ulster Championship League game, Queen’s were obviously more seriously affected by injury and representative call-ups as they were unable to field a front row and had to concede the game before kick-off.
Nevertheless Banbridge impressed with their levels of fitness and organisation, eventually running in seven tries to the students’ three touchdowns, two of which came from interceptions.
Prop Stuart Cromie kicked off the scoring with a try in the fourth minute after Shandon Scott had kicked a penalty to the corner to set up a lineout, from which the visitors’ pack gave early evidence of their superior strength.
Twelve minutes in full-back Jonny Milligan grabbed the first of the students’ intercept tries, sprinting 40 metres to go in at the posts, with Ally Wright’s conversion giving his team a 7-5 lead which they held for just three minutes.
Stephen Irvine won clean possession at the tail of a lineout and then set up a ruck after Lee Steenson and Cromie had handled to put centre Andrew Morrison through a gap in the home defence, with Steenson adding the extras.
Morrison’s break on the Queen’s ten-metre line saw Adam Ervine link with John Porter for the latter to dive over for the third try and by half-time the bonus point had been secured when flanker Richard Graham put the finishing touches to another forward-based attack on the home lines. Steenson’s two further conversions put his side 7-26 ahead at the break.
Bann used their superior forward power to dominate the final half-hour’s play, scoring three more tries in the process. A maul from a lineout 16 metres out was driven close enough to the home line for Irvine to force his way over.
Then No 8 Mike Bentley, making his league debut for Bann, capped a fine display by crossing for the last two tries, the second of those after a surging run had taken him through a number of attempted tackles. Steenson converted two from three in the second half.
Bann President Alan Harvey was not getting carried away after his side’s impressive opening.
He said: “Queen’s usually have early-season problems and unfortunately tonight they were short in the front row.
“I know for sure that they’ll be a different prospect when we meet them in ‘back-to-backs’ in December.
“So we’ll not read too much into tonight’s result. But on the positive side we had a number of guys out there who had an opportunity to show what they could do in a Firsts’ jersey and I was impressed with the way they performed and slotted into the team in the absence of a number of our regulars.
“Kallan Martin is back with us after graduating from university in England and he worked hard for the 80 minutes. Jason Gribbon had a sound game at full-back and Mike Bentley looks to be a really good signing.
“The friendly at Ballynahinch on Saturday will give us a better idea of our readiness for the AIL battles ahead.”