An error-strewn performance by Banbridge in Saturday’s Ulster Senior Cup semi-final allowed Queen’s to claim their place in the Ravenhill final against Ballynahinch with a 21-7 victory.
Bann had the first-half advantage of the slope, the gentle breeze and a ten-minute numerical advantage thanks to a yellow card picked up by an opposition player but they could only take a 5-7 lead into the break.
That was never going to be enough to hold out against a Queen’s side who played with the confidence generated from a successful All-Ireland League campaign.
Bann’s superior scrum afforded the three quarters chance to stretch their legs in the 16th minute. But the final pass out wide was fluffed and Queen’s left winger Mike McAuley pounced on the loose ball to find his way clear for a 35 metre run to the try line. McMaster’s conversion attempt fell short.
Scrum-half Andy Hyde sliced through the Queen’s defence to put Hugo Harbinson in possession close to the line but the winger’s inside pass was knocked on. However with the Bann forwards repeatedly earning reverse put-ins at the set piece the home line remained under threat. The efforts by the defence to keep their line intact saw them pick up that yellow card and Bann opted for the scrum 15 metres out. The ball was switched left and after a number of re-cycles No 8 Jonny Graham was able to force his way over at the posts, leaving Adam Doherty to add the conversion.
McMaster’s shot at goal from the halfway line in the 46th minute went the wrong side of the cross bar, but a poor follow-up to the 22 drop-out allowed McAuley to gather. The left winger evaded a couple of tackles before grubbering behind the defence and winning the race to effect the touchdown with McMaster adding the conversion.
Queen’s flanker Stuart Hooks capitalised on poor handling to take play into the visitors’ 22 where they won a penalty, McMaster’s successful conversion stretching the lead to 15-7. With the referee now starting to find fault with Bann’s scrummaging, Queens were able to have a set piece reversed and then win a penalty at the re-set, which McMaster again despatched between the uprights.
The introduction of replacements Ryan Patterson and Lee Steenson added some punch and zip to Bann’s attack but the Queens line was rarely seriously threatened in the final quarter. McMaster’s third penalty, kicked from the halfway line in the dying minutes, merely confirmed what the Bann supporters had realised from much earlier, that there would be no comeback.