A fairytale farewell for Barbarian Banahan

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MATT BANAHAN says his last hurrah at The Recreation Ground in Bath offered storylines that ‘you couldn’t script.’

At the scene of where the Islander spent 12 successful years racking up 251 appearances, Banahan returned a hero, pulling up a pair of Jersey RFC socks to come off the bench in the famous black and white of the Barbarians.

His select squad turned over the Premiership outfit 31-30 by way of a drop goal as time expired, from All Black Damian McKenzie.

‘It was incredible, to be honest. You couldn’t script it,’ said Banahan.

‘To think we only had a 15-minute touch rugby session together as a team prior to playing and went out there and beat Bath. They were on the back of three wins and you could tell that they were intent on winning the game to keep that momentum.

‘When the Baa Baas come to town it tends to be more of a spectacle, but it was such a hard-fought contest. Bath were taking points in front of the posts to add points, instead of going for tries. It was a proper battle.’

However, perhaps more important than the result was the opportunity to play in front of his family for one last time.

‘When I left Bath four years ago, my parents and wife were not able to attend and when I left Gloucester, again they didn’t see as it was during the pandemic,’ the 35-year-old explained.

‘For them to be in attendance for this game, especially with it being at The Rec, it was a special moment for me to bow out with family cheering me on.

‘I wanted to prove to them that I can still get out there and play to a high standard. I was fortunate enough to retire at a time that was right for me, as opposed to being forced away from the game through injury. So to go out there and put in a good performance and come away with a win like that was great.’

As one of the Premiership’s all time leading try scorers, Banahan became a fan favourite at Bath and the reception he received at the Rec reflected that.

He said: ‘The fans were absolutely brilliant.

‘To be able to give back to the Bath faithful who have been so good to me over the years was special. The atmosphere was electric and it was never a place I wanted to leave, so to return and see that the fans still have respect for my time there was fantastic.’

Banahan became the first Caesarean to represent Jersey since its inception in 1915.

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