Bann aiming to end away day blues in big derby test

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There is no doubting the game of the day in Division 2A as in-form Queen’s host leaders Banbridge at the Dub.

The students have helped their promotion claims with away wins at Cashel and Malone in their last two games and are five points behind Banbridge.

Dan Soper’s side returned to the top of the table last week by taking advantage of Queen’s win at Gibson Park with a bonus point victory over Cashel.

Soper was delighted to get the five points at Rifle Park last weekend.

“Bonus point was exactly that a bonus on Saturday with the way the weather was and to get four scores we were delighted,” he said.

“But we were equally delighted just to win the game; it was a tough game, Cashel had a great start to the year and we were delighted to get the win.”

And Soper is expecting a typical tough derby encounter.

“It will be very tough, by all accounts Queen’s went very well last weekend and defended very well,” said the Kiwi.

“They have a lot of quality in their side and have a lot of academy guys that are on the way up and it will be a challenge for us, but it looks like every game in this league is going to be like that.

“Currently there isn’t much between the top six and even at that, the next four aren’t that far away and every game is a big challenge.”

Bann’s only away win came at Malone on the opening day of the season and they have lost their other three on the road from winning positions.

“We have had three loses on the road in the last two minutes of them games, we don’t have any problems scoring points on the road we have just been a bit leaky given scores away too softly,” Soper added.

“We need to start performing away from home and this weekend we have an Ulster derby, which isn’t too big a journey to start looking for excuses for not winning away from home, but it will be a tough task.”

The sides will meet again at Rifle Park next week.

“We’re just trying to look at the first game and not worry too much about the second game,” he said.

“We’ll put everything into winning the first game and if we do that it will be great then we will worry about the second game after that.”

Shandon Scott returns to the match day squad after an ankle injury in the only change from the 20 who were on duty against Cashel.

Queen’s welcome back prop Brian Cunningham from a one-match suspension but No8 Nick Timoney is in Dubai with the Ireland 7s.

Alex Thompson, Rob Lyttle and Jonny McPhillips are available and coach Bob Young knows Bann pose a real threat.

“Everyone knows Banbridge are a really good team and are going really well the last few years, they are a dangerous team but they can front up as well and have dangerous forwards,” said Young.

“We’ll welcome them up to the Dub and have a really good go at them. We let ourselves down against them earlier on in the season but that was a shadow of a team then until what we have now.”

Third placed Malone make three changes for the tip to Skerries, Mark O’Connor aand Rory Campbell are injured so Garteth Millar and Jack McMurty come into the back three.

Cory Tipping is missing so James McAlister moves into the second row.

with Ben McDonnel starting at blindside flanker