AN impressive first half display which saw them run in a bonus point-winning four tries earned Banbridge a third win in four All-Ireland League starts.
The fact that the win was achieved against Highfield in Munster made it all the more satisfying for Bann coach Daniel Soper. “To be honest we’d have settled for a win of any kind, but to have earned the bonus point is great,” he said reflecting on the game. “The dry conditions suited us and in the 30 minutes before half-time we played our best rugby of the season.
“The combinations were good and we started to look a bit more like the team of last year. We made much better use of the ball during that period of the game and the three tries scored by the threequarters reflected that.
“After the break we still had plenty of possession but made too many errors in attack. But our defence was very solid playing into the wind and I was delighted that we again kept our try line intact.”
The Bann pack was up against a physically impressive Highfield eight, but they gave away nothing at the set piece. After the opening ten minutes of exchanges Bann upped the tempo and their superior mobility allowed them to dominate for the remainder of the half.
The opening score followed a driving maul which took play close to the Highfield line with hooker David Weir finishing off with a try that went unconverted.
Another controlled maul laid the foundation for the second try, with Jonny Little taking a good line to receive Adam Ervine’s pass and scythe through the retreating Highfield defence for a score which Robin Thompson converted.
Ervine played a key part in the third try, with full-back Brendan Ward winning the race to a neat chip from the scrum-half which landed invitingly in the home side’s in-goal area.
Then just before the interval Bann grabbed the important fourth try. After winning turnover ball they went through the phases to set Andrew Morrison off on a run which saw him hand off the last defender en-route to the line. It was a score which, set alongside a fine individual defensive display, deservedly earned the young centre the man-of-the-match accolade.
Highfield’s first half response consisted of two penalties, but they might have expected to take advantage of the second half wind to eat into the 16 point deficit. Instead it was Bann who continued to edge the battle for possession, with only those errors limiting their second half tally to the three points from Thompson’s boot.
But it was still three more than Highfield could muster as the well-organised Bann defence snuffed out all the opposition’s attacks before they could build any momentum.
Soper is now looking forward to the visit to Rifle Park of Naas this weekend. “We need another win to keep the pressure on the teams at the top,” he said. “But if we maintain the level of improvement we have shown in recent weeks I am confident we can do that, and hopefully pick up another bonus point in the process.”