Soper delighted as Bann secure back-to-back All Ireland League wins

Banbridge Head Coach Daniel Soper is a relieved man after his side made it two All-Ireland League wins on the trot, defeating Rainey 29-10 on Saturday.

That follows up their impressive win over Ballymena and has left Soper more optimistic, following a tough start that saw them lose their first four AIL games.

He said: “We’re delighted to get those last two wins. We’ve had a pretty rough start to the season and we’ve been under pressure to get results. The boys have been great in those last two games. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves but it’ll be nice to go into the Christmas period coming off the back of those two wins.”

Andy Morrison was the man to set them on their way against Rainey as he bagged two first-half tries, the first of those with less than five minutes on the clock. His performance, according to Soper, was a huge catalyst in the victory:

“We haven’t seen a lot of Andy so far this season but he was back to his best at the weekend. He was the most dangerous player on the pitch, which is great to see.”

After half-time, John Porter ran over on the right-wing and veteran Colly Bickerstaff secured the bonus point.

“He says it’s his first score in about three years so he was pretty happy to get that,” revealed Soper.

“Last year we were talking about looking for bonus points more but this year we’ve been concentrating on trying to get a win and we were just pleased to do that.”

The New Zealander isn’t looking to anyone else to blame for his side’s poor start to the All-Ireland League season.

He said: “A lot of it probably lies with ourselves. At the start of the season, we were still thinking about how great we had done last year and that we were going to be around the top of the All-Ireland League again this season. We had a couple of narrow defeats that, last year, we probably would have won but now we’re starting to come back into a bit of form. The confidence is up now too.

“After Christmas, if we can go on a run in the All-Ireland League we could still finish closer to the top than to the bottom which, given our current position, would be a good achievement.”

Before that, though, they host Queen’s and travel to both City of Derry and Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster League. They lost their first three Ulster League games in what was a nightmare start to the campaign. However, two wins against Armagh and Rainey have put them back on track.

This weekend, they’ll go to Queen’s hoping to avenge their 21-7 Senior Cup semi-final defeat last month. Queen’s are coming off the back of a stunning All-Ireland win over high-flying City of Derry and will play that Senior Cup final against Ballynahinch on Wednesday.

Soper is hoping his side won’t lose focus:

“They’ve already beaten us twice this season so we have to make sure we’re still totally motivated coming out of the All Ireland League. These next three games are really important to us as we look to prepare for the All-Ireland again after Christmas.”

Soper’s squad is currently injury free, although he’s fearing other commitments may impact on his squad over the festive period.

“My main worry is how much turkey they’ll eat over the next few weeks,” he said.

“It’s always a tough time of year as the players have work-dos and head off for long weekends or away skiing. It can be hard to keep up momentum. We’ve no major injury worries but there are other things that might have more of an impact on us.”

Banbridge’s home game against Queen’s kicks off at 2.30pm on Saturday.