Bangor bash Barban boys
by Roger Corbett
On a perfect afternoon for rugby, Bangor maintained their good winning streak by recording another bonus point victory against Dromore, eventually winning by 38-17.
With Bangor and Dromore looking secure in 3rd and 4th places respectively in the league, this game could have been viewed as a dead fixture. However, with Dromore no doubt wanting to reverse their earlier defeat, and Bangor wanting to maximise their points tally, the game was certainly competitive.
Bangor got proceedings underway, playing into a slight breeze that was blowing diagonally across the pitch. From the outset, Dromore used this slight advantage to gain good ground through well taken positional kicks. However, were equally happy to run the ball back and produced several good attacks in reply. In fact the home side could have been a couple of scores up in the first quarter, but the ball didn’t run for them at the crucial moments. However, the breakthrough eventually came when the handling across the backs was crisp and secure, giving Neil Cuthbertson on the right wing the opportunity to stretch his legs and dive over in the corner for a well-taken try. The difficult kick was missed, but the scoreboard had started in Bangor’s favour by 5-0.
The next twenty minutes were almost a copy of the first quarter, with Bangor making most of the attacking opportunities, only to be thwarted by a stubborn Dromore defence. For Dromore’s part, they also had their chances, and came close from a kick through that Cuthbertson managed to shepherd into the goal area and get the resulting twenty two drop-out. However, a slack response by Bangor handed the initiative back to Dromore who, after several surges, managed to push over for their first try in the right hand corner, levelling the scores at 5-5 with just a minute or two left in the first half.
Bangor’s reply from the restart was immediate and in complete contrast to how they approached the previous drop-out. Mark Thompson’s kick hung in the breeze, allowing Jamie Clegg to leap for it and continue running at the static Dromore defence. He then passed inside to Jason Morgan who then passed again to Mike Weir at outside centre. Although Weir had the option of Cuthbertson on the wing, he fooled the Dromore defence and made a charge for the line, just managing to squeeze over in the right hand corner. The conversion was missed, making the score 10-5.
With 2 minutes of stoppage time having elapsed, there was just enough time for Dromore to restart once more. However, another apparent lapse in concentration by Bangor in securing and then clearing the ball, allowed Dromore to come straight back and score an opportunist try in the corner and level the points at 10-10. As the referee blew for half time, the home supporters were stunned, feeling their side should have been well in front by this time.
As the teams turned around, Bangor produced their now familiar second half surge. Within 5 minutes, a good break by James Henly was stopped just inside the Dromore twenty two. Although the ball went to ground, good support play by Curtis Stewart saw him pick up and run through to score under the posts. Cuthbertson’s kick was good, and Bangor were back in front by 17-10.
An injury to full back Chris Morgan resulted in changes to both the forward and backs line-up, with Adam Rushe coming off the bench to take James Henly’s wing forward position, allowing Henly to move to outside centre, and moving Mike Weir to full back as a result. There followed a brief period of settling to this new structure, before Bangor struck again. Seeing a flat Dromore defence ahead of him, Jason Morgan chipped over their heads and began the chase for the line. The ball bounced favourably for him, and he just managed to gather and touch down ahead of the nearest defender. The kick was successful extending the lead to 24-10, and now with the additional bonus point.
Although Dromore maintained their own pressure, it was Bangor who were calling most of the shots. Just 7 minutes later, the ball went wide to Mark Widdowson on the left wing whose pace and footwork left several Dromore players floundering, before darting through to score under the posts. The addition of the simple conversion brought the score to 31-10.
With only 5 minutes remaining, Dromore produced a late push and brought play deep into Bangor’s twenty two. Although Dromore won their scrum close to Bangor’s line, it looked like Bangor had the attack covered. However a defensive mix-up left a gap that provided a simple run through for Dromore to score beside the posts. With the successful conversion, the gap had closed to 31-17.
Obviously annoyed by this mistake, Bangor came back at Dromore, forcing the visitors to concede a penalty inside their twenty two. Spurning the kick at goal, Thompson kicked for touch and an attacking line-out. With the ball safely won, Bangor started to drive forward, but the strong Dromore pack held it up. However, the ball was quickly recycled by Ricky Armstrong to Mark Thompson, who then passed to Jason Morgan who pushed off his tackler to score the final try of the day and, with the conversion, bring the final score to 38-17.
This was a good day for North Down sides playing Mid Down opposition. Bangor’s success against Dromore was matched by neighbours Donaghadee who produced an inspired performance to beat Ballynahinch 2nds and earn a place in this year’s Towns Cup final as a result – congratulations to all.
Bangor’s final fixture in this year’s league is away to Cooke next Saturday. The weekend is then topped off on Sunday afternoon with what should be a highly entertaining game between the Perennials and a Bangor Select XV. With several familiar faces from seasons past, this is sure to be a fun event, and one to come along and enjoy.
Bangor side: P Whyte, A Jackson, B Worthington (S Irvine), R Corbett, C Stewart , R Latimer, J Henly, J Clegg (c), R Armstrong, M Thompson, M Widdowson, J Morgan, M Weir, N Cuthbertson, C Morgan (A Rushe)
Subs: S Irvine, A Rushe
Bangor scores: N Cuthbertson (1T, 4C), M Weir (1T), C Stewart (1T), J Morgan (2T), M Widdowson (1T)