There seems to be no stopping Banbridge at the moment. They made sure they are top of the Division 2A charts for Christmas with their third successive bonus point win – a 38-7 hammering of Ulster rivals Queen’s University last Saturday.
Banbridge raced clear of Queen’s at Rifle Park, tallying up 10 points inside seven minutes and pocketing the bonus point with barely half an hour gone. The scoring blitz started with Adam Doherty kicking a penalty and converting prop Stuart Cromie’s try from close range.
Doherty also added the extras to an excellent individual score from winger Adam Ervine, who chased down a grubber kick into the students’ 22, produced a brilliant pick-up at full speed and dived over for a top class finish.
Queen’s were missing some key players who were away with Ulster ‘A’, and they fell 31 points behind following back-to-back tries from Bann replacement back rower Ryan Patterson. He muscled his way over off a couple of close-in scrums with Doherty tagging on both conversions.
The visitors built some momentum on the restart, centre Paddy Farrell taking a superb line to score an early try which Jack Milligan converted. However, Bann had the final say late on when number 8 Stephen Irvine, attacking off a five-metre scrum, touched down after spotting some space on the blindside. Doherty’s conversion confirmed the 31-point winning margin.
Speaking to the club website, Banbridge head coach Daniel Soper said: “At this time of year to get three bonus point wins is exceptional. Cashel were pressing near the top of the table when we played them and Queen’s were beginning to show some decent form. So I’m especially pleased that in those three games we only conceded two tries – our defence has got us through those games.
“We denied Queen’s any points in our two matches against them, so unless things go particularly well for them over the rest of the season that’s one less team in the (promotion) chase.
“We’re two points ahead of where we’d hoped to be at Christmas. So we’ll look at the next wee block of games and if we keep hitting our target, hopefully come April 2 we’ll be in the mix.”
Bann hold a three-point advantage over second-placed Malone who ran out 26-7 winners over Skerries in the only other Division 2A game that went ahead over the weekend.
In heavy underfoot conditions at Gibson Park, the Dubliners were just 11-7 behind at the break thanks to hooker Chris Tonge’s converted try from a well-executed lineout maul.
Two penalties from full-back Rory Campbell sandwiched Malone’s opening try, number 8 Ross Todd finishing off in the left corner after a smashing break from scrum half Shane Kelly (pictured above) and a well-timed final pass from the supporting Richard Millar to Todd (pictured below).
Despite losing Millar to the sin-bin, a further Campbell penalty and a converted try from hooker Tristan King, who found Cory Tipping with his lineout throw and then controlled the ball at the back of a powerful maul, between 14 points between the sides (21-7).
Malone’s set piece superiority was dented when uncontested scrums were called for after Skerries ran out of front row cover due to injuries. The Belfast outfit pressed on and back rower Millar provided the assist for another try, drawing the last defender to send Ben McDonnell over from 30 metres out. Skerries were unfortunate not to respond, missing out on a deserved try due to a double movement.
There is one remaining Division 2A fixture in 2015 – next Saturday’s rescheduled meeting of UCC and Thomond at the Mardyke. When the league campaign resumes in the New Year, there will be eight rounds left with plenty of twists and turns sure to follow in the respective promotion and relegation battles.
ROUND 10 RESULTS –
Malone 26 Skerries 7, Gibson Park
Thomond v UCC, Liam Fitzgerald Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Banbridge 38 Queen’s University 7, Rifle Park
Corinthians v Cashel, Corinthian Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Nenagh Ormond v Naas, New Ormond Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)