Bangor Rugby Club: I XV 10 v Portadown I XV 18: Junior Cup: Report & Pictures

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In difficult playing conditions at Upritchard Park, Bangor hosted Portadown in the 2nd round of the Junior Cup. In a game that see-sawed between the two sides, it was eventually Portadown who produced the winning tries to finish ahead on 10-18, and go th
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Portadown were the visitors to Upritchard Park on Saturday for the second round clash in the Millar McCall Wylie sponsored Junior Cup. Against a team from a higher league the Bangor supporters were expectant following last week’s demolition of Carrick, but from the early exchanges it was clear the opposition were a step up in quality. Despite playing with the benefit of a slight wind, the visitors opened the scoring after 5 minutes. Having conceded a penalty and watched it drift wide of the posts, Bangor knocked on in goal and conceded another penalty from the ensuing scrum. This time the shot at goal was successful and Portadown took a 3 point lead.

The ball was kicked into touch on the full from the restart and Bangor looked visibly nervous. The scrum that followed however saw Bangor take one against the head and were themselves awarded a penalty right on halfway. Keith Rossan immediately signalled for the posts and struck the ball superbly to level the scores.

The next 20 minutes saw Bangor pick up the pace and with the pack driving forward the early nerves disappeared. Bangor started to dominate their opponents and Portadown were forced into an early change when their fly half was cut following contact with Chris “Chopper” Morris. Excellent kicking from halfbacks Ricky Armstrong and Keith Rossan nudged Bangor into their opponents 22. No fewer than 4 penalties were conceded by Portadown close to their line. On each occasion the attempt at goal was ignored with Bangor determined to make the pressure pay and claim the 7 points for crossing the line. They were however held out by an organised and physical defence which time after time frustrated Bangor.

Neat interplay between Jason Morgan and Davy Charles brought the home team to within 5 metres of the line, but again the pressure could not be converted into points. Both teams were reduced to 14 men on 37 minutes after Skipper Rob McCausland was yellow carded after handbags with the Portadown tight head. Rossan was unsuccessful with the last kick of the half, from half the distance of his first effort.

With the rain now falling heavily and the breeze at Portadown’s back, Bangor needed to start well and continue to impose themselves. Sadly, weak defence allowed the visitors to cross for an unconverted try with only 2 minutes of the second half played. Portadown were now controlling large chunks of the game but Bangor’s defence held firm and scrambled well with front rowers Jake Harrison and Scotty Irvine making important hits. Bangor went ahead against the run of play when Rossan brilliantly read the intentions of his opposite number and intercepted on halfway to canter in under the posts untouched. With the extra points added the score moved on to 10-8 in Bangor’s favour.

With conditions deteriorating, Bangor continued to try moving the ball at every opportunity but with limited success. In fact it was the speedy Portadown winger who once again took advantage of an overlap and he crossed in the corner for a controversial try. The touch judge had signalled that the player had been put in touch but the less well sighted referee chose to ignore the help on offer and award the score. With the conversion missed the score was now 13-10 in Portadown’s favour.

Entering the final 15 minutes the home team again pushed forward and were awarded 2 penalties in the opposition 22. Again Bangor spurned the chance to kick at goal opting instead to scrummage, a set piece Bangor were impressive at all day. Slack passing again let Bangor down and with 8 minutes remaining Jason Morgan, who had moved to outhalf for the injured Rossan was unsuccessful with an attempt at goal. The game was finely balanced and after a Bangor indiscretion Portadown brought play well into the home teams 22. Running the clock down they slowly attacked the Bangor line and crossed for the final score of the game. With the extra points not being added referee Clem Basset signalled the end of the game.

Despite losing 18-10 there were many positives for this developing Bangor team to take. Last season Portadown won both encounters in the league by 50 point margins as Bangor struggled to compete. This encounter showed just how much progress has been made in the last number of months under coach Rupert Preston. What was also very pleasing was the fact that Bangor blooded a number of younger players with Craig Hompstead, Freddie Black, Stephen Gilliland and Matty Coey all gaining valuable 1XV experience. Chris Morgan also returned from injury to play his first competitive match for the club and showed glimpses of what he is capable of.

Despite the obvious disappointment of this defeat, the focus will now revert to navigating our safe passage from Qualifying 2 back to Qualifying 1 where the standard as demonstrated yesterday will be significantly higher. The continued focus of our coaches and the commitment of our squad will be necessary to ensure we bounce back at the first attempt. The next hurdle in this respect will be next Saturday when Bangor travel to Omagh, who are themselves on a good run of results and will no doubt have similar aspirations.

Bangor team : S Irvine, C Hompstead, J Harrison, T Brown , F Black, R McCausland (C), I McBurney, P Corbett, R Armstrong, K Rossan, C Morgan, M Aspey, C Morris, D Charles, J Morgan

Bangor Scores: K Rossan (1T, 1C, 1P)

Thanks to guest contributor Jonny Watson for this match report.

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