Bann title race goes to Naas

Banbridge can take another huge step towards the title this weekend. INBL1602-240PB
Banbridge can take another huge step towards the title this weekend. INBL1602-240PB

Banbridge Head Coach Daniel Soper has backed his squad to rise to arguably their biggest challenge of the season this weekend.

They travel to Naas on Saturday to take on their closest rivals, who sit just six points adrift in second place (kick-off 2.30pm).

On paper, it is potentially the most difficult match of the league season but Soper has no doubt his squad can pull a massive result out of the hat.

“Every time a big challenge has been thrown at the boys so far, they have stepped up and got better,” he said, “The games we’ve lost haven’t been those big challenges. They’ve been games that we thought we should win and we haven’t been in the right mindset. We have got ourselves up for the big games so far and Saturday certainly is one of those.”

Bann are currently six points clear atop the Division 2A table. A win on Saturday could put a significant gap between the two sides.

Soper said: “If they win, they are right back in the hunt but if we win, we create a bit of breathing space for ourselves, like we have managed to do against UCC, Cashel and Queen’s.

“If we can get a win this weekend, it would be a big mark of where we are.”

Bann claimed their first win across the border this season the last time they travelled south, edging out Cashel.

They last won at Naas in April 2011, claiming a 31-28 win in Division Three. Now Soper is hoping they can repeat that feat by drawing on their 11-0 success against the challengers at Rifle Park back in October.

“Naas were bitterly disappointed when they lost up here,” he said.

“They are a very, very good side. They came up to Rifle Park with big aspirations and were very disappointed to lose. This weekend, they will be doing all they can to put that right.

“Up until we played them, they had the best attack in the league. To ‘nil’ them was a significant achievement for us.

“Since then, it’s been our defence that has pulled us through on a few occasions. Against Cashel before Christmas, we didn’t let them score and away to Queen’s, it was our defence in the first half that that let us go on and win. We’re not conceding a lot of points.”

Banbridge have conceded the least points in the table but second in those stakes are Naas.

Bann are likely to go into the game without the services of Nico Vorster but expect to have an otherwise full squad to choose from.