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We can look forward to the new season with confidence - Duke

16 September 2020

Banbridge’s first run-out of the new season saw them field a Firsts and Seconds team, each for 40 minutes, against two Dungannon sides with Bann’s Director of Rugby Andy Duke very pleased with what he had seen. 

“It was a wee bit typical of a first outing, to be fair,” he said after the game.

“We stuttered a bit at times, but I thought after the first 10 minutes or so the Firsts got into their stride and looked very sharp.”

Bann had the better of the opening half, with their pacy backline running in three tries against a home side which created few scoring opportunities.

Bann Seconds took on a Dungannon First/Seconds mix for the second half, with the balance of the game swinging in favour of the home side and enabling them to tie the scores by the final whistle.

Robin Sinton’s early break through the home lines should have had Bann ahead but the flanker failed to make use of his support runners and the chance was blown.

Dungannon eventually battled their way into the opposition half but a 50-metre run from lock Chris Allen, back in the Rifle Park fold after a season at Lurgan, saw Bann back on the front foot. The home side tried to run their way out of trouble again but Conor Field intercepted 40 metres out and sprinted clear for the opening try.

Neil Kilpatrick’s chip behind the Dungannon defence almost saw Field put Peter Cromie in for Bann’s second score, but the hooker was snagged when trying to collect the pass.

Five points would have been a paltry return for Bann’s first half domination but two tries in the closing five minutes gave the scoreline a fairer reflection of the exchanges. 

Hugo Harbinson was up in support when Josh Cromie broke through the home lines following a lineout, taking the centre’s pass to touch down with Adam Doherty adding the extras.

Playing to the referee’s advantage from inside their own 10-metre line, Bann moved the ball wide for Peter Cromie to find brother Josh with the deftest of passes and launch the centre on a 45-metre run which ended with his try-scoring pass to Kilpatrick, with Doherty converting.

Duke said that he had been particularly impressed with a few of the younger Bann players. “Max Lyttle showed up very well at No 8 and I thought Mark Mairs, who just joined us in the summer, looked the part at open-side flanker,” he said.

“We knew from his performances for Dromore that David Lyttle was a very good player and his leadership of the back-line today underlined that again. And in Hugo (Harbinson) and Conor (Field) we had plenty of speed out wide.”

Dungannon’s superiority after the interval owed much to the influence of Glen Sinnamon, who gave a clear demonstration of the benefit of retaining a ‘grizzly’, seasoned scrummager in your line-up. However, the veteran prop showed that he is more than a one-trick pony by picking up his side’s opening try, which Michael Lawton converted.

With Bann struggling at the set piece and lacking cohesion in the threequarters, they came under further pressure when the home side’s second score, a penalty try, was followed by a yellow card for centre Ross Cartmill.

And Lawson just failed to kick what would have been the winning conversion after Alex Gormley had crossed the Bann line for his side’s third try.

Despite the second half turnaround Duke said that he was pleased with how the Seconds stood up to what was virtually a Dungannon Firsts side. 

“Again a few young lads stepped up very well,” he said. 

“Marty Vorster did very well and Aaron Kennedy led from the front as usual. So overall it was a very successful training game and I think we can look forward to the new season with confidence.”

Duke said that a further cause for optimism for the club overall was the first-ever fielding of six teams on the same day. “It has long been an ambition of mine to grow the number of teams and to see the turnout today was fantastic. And with upwards of 35 players unavailable – well that will maybe make things tricky for the selectors, but fantastic to see given the times and for rugby in general. An .ambition realised for me, that’s for sure.”

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