Perseverance pays off with bonus point against Grosvenor
Despite the poor weather and heavy pitch, Bangor managed the conditions better than their opponents to eventually win by 27-5, with the bonus point try coming with the last play of the game.
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Thanks to the valiant efforts of the groundsman and a hardy crew of volunteers who were out with pitchforks early on Saturday morning, this eagerly awaited match between two of the top four teams in QL2 was able to take place.
With the rain and wind blowing towards the cricket end, Grosvenor kicked off with the wind at their backs. The opening exchanges were evenly matched, with both sides trying to come to grips with the difficult playing conditions. Grosvenor wisely used the wind to kick for position, and soon found themselves well-placed inside Bangor’s twenty two. Bangor defended well but, with just 10 minutes gone, Grosvenor won a quick ball from a ruck on the right hand side which was simply passed wide to the winger who found enough space to touch down in the corner for the opening score. The difficult conversion was missed, but Grosvenor were in the lead by 0-5.
Bangor would have no doubt been mindful of last season’s encounter at Upritchard Park when Grosvenor clinched a narrow but painful victory, and therefore started to up their game and not let Grosvenor build on this early lead. It was therefore no surprise that Bangor’s reply was swift and came as a result of strong forward play. From a well controlled scrum, number 8 Curtis Stewart picked up and started for the Grosvenor line. Although usually unstoppable from this position, on this occasion the four Grosvenor defenders hanging onto him was just too much, and he was stopped short of the line. However, he managed to recycle the ball which then came to Matt Leebody who proved too strong for the covering tackler and scored to the right of the posts. Chris Morgan made sure of the extras, putting Bangor in the lead by 7-5 with 18 minutes gone.
The remainder of the first half saw plenty of attacking action by both sides, but neither being able to make a scoring break. As the sides turned around for the second half, the touchline stalwarts felt that the wind advantage now favouring Bangor would add a few points, but at this stage a bonus point victory looked an unlikely outcome.
It was obvious that both the wind assistance and half time talk by coach Rupert Preston had made an impact. Within 3 minutes of restarting the game, Bangor pressure had forced Grosvenor to concede a penalty in front of their posts, allowing Morgan to stroke over the kick and extend Bangor’s lead to 10-5.
From the restart, Bangor secured the ball and started back on the attack. While not the best of conditions for running rugby, the Bangor back line took the game into Grosvenor’s half. In the increasingly muddy conditions, the ball slipped from Bangor’s possession, allowing Grosvenor to clear to touch, although only to their 10 metre line. The lineout was safely gathered by Darren Lyttle, and then the Bangor pack formed up to produce another great driving maul. They pushed their opponents back towards the Grosvenor twenty two before being stopped. Unfortunately, the ball became stuck and the resulting scrum was awarded to Grosvenor. Sensing that the visitors were now on the back foot, Bangor produced a tremendous shove as the ball was put in and, in so doing, got the ball back on their side. The scrum continued to drive forward until Stewart saw his chance and this time was unstoppable as he crashed over for the try. Morgan’s conversion from close to the right hand touchline was driven hard and low, but unfortunately bounced off the crossbar, making the score now a more comfortable 15-5.
Having now played just 5 minutes of the second half, hopes were high that Bangor would keep up the pressure and close out the game, preferably with two more tries. However, to Grosvenor’s credit, they responded well and not only thwarted Bangor’s efforts to score, but created a number of good scoring chances themselves. Bangor came close to scoring again after a further 10 minutes, when Mike Aspley made a strong through the centre before off-loading to Matt Leebody. With just 2 metres to go to the Grosvenor line, Leebody was brought down by a determined defence and, although Lyttle was in close support, the ball had been knocked on in the process.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Bangor once more brought play deep into Grosvenor’s twenty two, this time as the result of an excellent clearing kick by Ricky Armstrong. Once more the pack went to work, with Lyttle driving forward towards the line. The Grosvenor defence once more managed to stop the attack, but the ever vigilant Armstrong was on hand to spot enough of a gap to dive over and score. Although the quickly taken conversion was unsuccessful, the game now looked safe at 20-5. However, with three tries now scored, Bangor were anxious to get back and try for the all important fourth that would add a bonus point.
By contrast, Grosvenor were obviously looking to score themselves as this would get them into losing bonus point territory. As the clock ticked down, Bangor found themselves back in their own twenty two, conceding penalties, but not conceding points. Then, just when it looked like the game would run out of steam, Davy Charles produced one of his jinking runs down the right wing, making good ground while also drawing opposing players. Although stopped on the half way line, the ball came to Nick Hatton who set off through the centre. With Grosvenor now back pedalling, Hatton passed to Lyttle who took the ball to within 5 metres of the goal line. With the defence still trying to get into position, the ball popped out to Ryan Law in free space who ran through unhindered to score the bonus point try to the right of the posts. With Morgan’s successful conversion bringing the score to 27-5, the referee blew for full time.
This was not a day for sparkling rugby, but given the conditions and strength of opposition, the perseverance and desire shown by the players is to be commended (particularly Man of the Match Freddie Black), and the end result was just reward for their efforts. Next weekend Bangor travel to Omagh for their second round match in the Towns Cup. Having produced a good league result there earlier in the season, hopes are high that the Bangor’s winning run in both cup and league competitions can continue.
Bangor team: C Schofield, P Dornan, J Harrison, F Black, D Lyttle, N Hatton, J Clegg, C Stewart, R Armstrong (c),R Law, P Gray, M Aspley, M Leebody, D Charles, C Morgan
Bangor scores: M Leebody (1T), C Stewart (1T), R Armstrong (1T), R Law (1T), C Morgan (2C, 1P)