Coach Dan Soper hopes Banbridge bounce back against Skerries

Banbride coach Dan Soper
Banbride coach Dan Soper

It was a bad day for Ulster’s Division 2A clubs last Saturday as all three suffered defeats.

Banbridge lost at second placed Naas which means their lead at the top of the table has been cut to two points with five games remaining.

Coach Dan Soper is hoping for an improved performance against Skerries at Rifle Park.

“Our goals for this block was to get 14 points. We have eight with one game to go so we have missed our target but we could get pretty close if we pick up a win and anymore would certainly keep us on target for what we think we need during the course of the season to finish top” said Soper.

“It’s got closer but it has been a tight league all year and it’s up to us to go out and win the next game and if we keep winning the table will look after itself.”

The Kiwi had no complaints about last week’s defeat.

“There was certainly disappointment among the group on Saturday. Not that we had lost but the manner that we had played, we were unbeaten in the previous five games and had gone on a bit of a run, we just let ourselves down.

“We just didn’t get into our stride, our defensive performance was as poor as it has been this year and we fell off more tackles on Saturday than probably four or five games put together, we gave them a lot of momentum and kicked poorly out of hand.

“When we turned with the wind we couldn’t get into a position to apply any pressure and then there were a lot of unforced errors with the ball.”

Skerries are eighth and Soper is aware of the threat they pose.

“Our home form is good but the dangerous thing is when you get to this time of the season and the way the league is set up this year everybody is fighting for something.

“Skerries are fighting in the bottom three to avoid relegation and a playoff and they will be fighting tooth and nail to get a win on Saturday.

“They beat us in the early part of the season and they were very good that day.

“They used their maul and scored an excellent try, they are a team that just won’t roll over and we are going to have to play very well.

“The thing about losing last week is we’re straight back into it this week we’re at home and we have a chance to put a line through last week and keep the pressure on the other teams at the top of the league.”

Soper’s main selection problem doesn’t come from injury but form Bann and Ulster scrum half Ian Porter is having a stag night which rules his brother John and prop James McCrum out.

Clarke McAlister starts on the wing and the experienced Colin Bickerstaff comes into the front row, Ryan Patterson and Lee Steenson are available.

Queen’s coach Bob Young hasn’t given up hope of making the playoffs, the students slipped to seventh but have three of their last five games at home starting with Naas.

Jonny McPhillips and Robert Lyttle are missing while Nick Timoney is still injured but the squad is bolstered by seven players returning who were unavailable last week including Jack Milligan, Conor McKee and Conor Kelly.

Malone are fourth and face a tricky trip to relegation threatened Thomond with coach Jarett Truscott expecting a physical counter.

Gary Crawford is ruled out so Ben Halliday starts at loose head and Phil Eadie at tight in the only two changes from the starting side that lost to Cashel.