Bann Seconds got their season off to a winning start, outscoring their Scottish visitors Ayr on a 6-4 try margin at a sun-kissed Rifle Park.
With a large squad at their disposal, Bann coaches Colin Bickerstaff and Andrew Craig were able to make frequent changes to their line-up, but without affecting the overall performance levels. And although Ayr were always in the game, the final scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the balance of play.
Ten minutes in Bann looked to have taken the lead, but Ben Thompson’s pass that put Ross Cartmill in at the posts was deemed to have been forward. Soon after however the hosts’ territorial domination was reflected on the scoreboard.
Centre Willie Taylor’s quick hands were key to releasing Cartmill and winger Charlie Jones, with the latter’s well-timed pass putting full-back Andrew Denver in for the opening try.
Ayr struck back five minutes later, with a converted try from their first serious excursion into Bann territory taking them into a 5-7 lead.
Midway through the half Ben Thompson’s testing kick had the Ayr defence in trouble and when the ball was turned over, Robbie Mathers’ drive for the line was halted short but flanker Matthew Shirlow was on hand to pick up and finish the job. Thompson’s conversion gave his side a 12-7 advantage and ten minutes later the out-half scythed through the Ayr defence on a 35 metre run to the posts, converting for a 19-7 interval lead.
Mathers picked up the first try after the break, going in from close range for Macauley Little to convert. Ayr grabbed their second try, with a fine conversion narrowing the gap to 26-14. And when they were able to take advantage of a fortuitous bounce in Bann’s in-goal for a third converted try, they were right back in the game.
But the impressive Denver ran 65 metres for Bann’s fifth touchdown, after Matthew Quinn had gathered an Ayr kick and fed Mark Magowan who linked with the full-back. And a blistering burst in the closing stages from Alex Shannon put Jamie Mullan in at the posts to seal the win, with Ayr’s fourth converted try coming as deserved award for their contribution to an entertaining game.
Coach Bickerstaff reflected on what he said was a very positive start to the season. “There’s been great work done in pre-season,” he said, “and that display showed the depth of talent we have to call on.
“It was very pleasing to have such a young bunch of lads playing good attacking rugby and clearly enjoying themselves. Bring on Saturday!”
This weekend Larne have home advantage as they take on Bann Seconds in the first Conference League game.