Donaghadee 32 - 17 Banbridge RFC 2nd XV (Conference League)
On a fine March day at Donaldson Park, Banbridge II kicked off a Conference League game against an experimental Donaghadee side with some players returning to action after injury and a few regulars taking an opportunity for a week off in a crammed and hectic schedule this month. The latter few were replaced by young Second XV players who deserved the chance to show their stuff against a Senior club’s Second XV.
When in the eighth minute Donaghadee forced Banbridge to ease the pressure with a “22” drop-out, a poorly directed drop kick found an eager Stuart Hutchinson out on his team’s right. A glance upfield showed an almost empty corridor between touch and the five-metre line, and Hutchy was gone up that narrow corridor for a fine opening try.
Minutes later came a second. When the ball just made it into touch from a despairing Banbridge hack, Paul Blewitt, showing how eager he was after a long injury lay-off, grabbed it and threw it in quickly. In this particular week everyone present knows the rule about such tactics, but he did use the same ball and no one else had touched it. The Dee forwards acted in unison and presented prop forward Chris Schofield with a chance up the touchline. Naturally he took it and crossed far out and then was careful enough to close in towards the posts giving Richard Millar an easy kick for a 12-0 Donaghadee lead.
A quiet period followed and it was Donaghadee who relaxed just a little too much. The Banbridge players attacked in numbers and scored a well-deserved try and conversion to cheer their spirits during the break.
In the second period Donaghadee allowed their game to become more expansive. Stevie Garrett was playing well at No. 9 and Blewitt was relishing his return by distributing the ball quickly and with sufficient variety to keep the Banbridge defence honest. When the threequarters got the ball early to Rory Garnham he instantly showed that the signs of restored confidence he showed the previous Saturday were real. His blistering pace took him the forty metres to the first tackle at Banbridge’s “22”. It was a decent enough tackle, but Garnham switched from pace to strength and simply wrestled his way through it and stormed on for an exhilarating try for Donaghadee and a 17-7 scoreline.
Five minutes later it was 27-7 for Donaghadee. First, Blewitt presented his forwards with a diagonal ball to chase they were all there and eager, and almost immediately the forwards crashed over as a unit for another try. Great work by the experimental Dee pack as collectively they crossed the Banbridge line twice in as many minutes and Donaghadee now had a big advantage.
Garnham and his full back Billy Allen had a rattle at showing how good Donaghadee’s backs can be, but their blitzkrieg was snuffed out just short. This was only the briefest respite as Donaghadee came back again even harder and got the reward of another try and what turned out to the winning score of 32-7.
All things considered this was an excellent performance from a slightly changed Donaghadee XV. After the big hiccup last week at Coleraine, the team is now back on track for their remaining Qualifying League games, buoyed up by the news coming in from Carrickfergus where the home side had beaten the Dee’s close League rivals Ballyclare 24-11 – and this one week before the vital Ballyclare v. Donaghadee encounter.
Donaghadee team: Billy Allen, Chris McGivern, Andrew Findlater, Chris Beattie, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Stevie Garrett: Chris Good (c), Phil McGaughey, Chris Schofield, David Thompson, Kyle Morrow, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Hamilton and Richard Millar.