The annual McCutcheon Cup fixture was held, as usual, on Boxing Day, with a large number of exiles turning out against a select Bangor XV.
Under the watchful eyes of coaches-for-the-day Jim Lacey and Ricky Armstrong, captains Harry Millar and Jake Harrison, and Davy Coey officiating (more about that later), proceedings got underway with the match format being 3 sessions of 20 minutes each, with rolling substitutions.
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The current Bangor side is performing well in the league, and the large group of spectators could be forgiven for expecting a one-sided game. However, it was good to see the quality of players originating from Bangor who now find themselves living and working away from home. With a number of these playing at a higher level than that of Bangor, the ‘home’ side were in for a tough contest.
If there were any rugby purists on the touchline, they were in for a shock. In the spirit of this ‘social’ event, the advantage rule was played out to a degree that is unlikely to ever be seen again. And while cold hands led to many knock-ons, it was beginning to look like the ball was supposed to be played forward, and not back as is the more normal state of affairs. Nonetheless, both sides played to the refereeing of the day, and the lead swung to and fro, as the tries started to mount up.
Neither side wanted to lose possession or territory, and this became most apparent when a ruck was formed on the Bangor twenty two. The Exiles pack dug in and, for a moment, held up the attacking drive. However, obviously spurred on by recent exploits on the international scene (remember the 15 man lineout recently?), the Bangor players decided to increase the weight on their side by bringing on some of the substitutes and adding them to the already assembled pack. Not to be outdone, the Exiles quickly assessed the situation and did likewise. The result? The first 40 man maul seen at Upritchard Park – quite a sight!
In many games, there is often a cry that the referee gets in the way of the game. However, much to the delight of the Exiles – now falling slightly behind – the referee became part of the game, showing that he has lost little of his running and passing skills, despite his advancing years.
As has probably been deduced by now, this was purely and simply an excuse to meet up with old friends and run off some of the excesses of Christmas Day. The final score doesn’t really matter, but it was the home side that shouted loudest that they had won, and so that’s how it finished. Hugh would have been in his element.