Banbridge opened their Ulster Championship League campaign in style, running in a ten tries against an Ards side that worked hard defensively in the first half before caving in over the final quarter of the game.
There was little in the opening half hour’s play to suggest that the game would ultimately turn into a rout. True, Bann had the early chances to score, with prop Stuart Cromie and No 8 Jonny Graham both being denied scores when a TMO might have adjudged otherwise. Other scoring chances were discarded on the back of dropped passes or penalty infringements as the visitors continued to dominate.
But it took one of Ryan Patterson’s bullocking runs to break down the hitherto resilient Ards defence on the half hour, with the lock coming on an angled run to breach the home line and race in from the “22” to score under the posts, making Aaron Kennedy’s conversion a formality.
That was the only score before the break. Eight minutes after the re-start it was Patterson who again showed the way as he took advantage of a strike against the head to cross the Ards line for a second time, Shandon Scott adding the extras on this occasion.
Andrew Morrison’s fine midfield break set up John Porter for Bann’s third touchdown and Scott again added the conversion to take his side 21 points clear with 54 minutes played. With an hour played that was how the score stood but in the final 18 minutes the floodgates opened as Bann scorched over for a further seven tries.
Ards could not cope with the pace coming from the opposition ranks. Cromie finally crossed for the try he had earlier been denied after a 5-metre lineout and three quick re-cycles. Scott again converted and then Adam Ervine took advantage of a Morrison break, taken on by Chris Allen, to go in for the fifth touchdown.
Allen powered his way through a rapidly tiring Ards defence for the sixth score and Morrison put the cap on a fine individual performance by running in unopposed for the seventh.
There were still six minutes left on the clock and Bann used them to heap more misery on the totally deflated home side, crossing for three further scores, which with three conversions from Adam Doherty, added 21 points to Bann’s tally.
Doherty sprinted 40 metres to the line for the first, then Porter took advantage of Jonny Little’s Zebo-style footwork to go in for his second and Peter Cromie crossed the home line from the final move of the game.
After an error-riddled first half Bann eventually came good, but coach Daniel Soper is unlikely to read too much into this performance against an Ards side that, on the basis of this display, could find itself struggling in AIL Division 2B.
City of Derry, who travel to Rifle Park this Saturday, will certainly provide a much more thorough test of Bann’s credentials, despite their home defeat to Armagh last weekend.
But Soper will be pleased to have got off to a winning start, with his squad’s fitness levels undoubtedly playing a part in that final 20 minute onslaught on the Ards line. Jonny Pollock and Nico Vorster were both unavailable for the Ards game so with all the players who started at Ards having come through unscathed, there will be some selection decisions to be made.