The eagerly anticipated start to Bangor’s new rugby season got underway last Friday night at Upritchard Park, with a friendly against last season’s run-away winners of Kukri Qualifying League 2 – the league Bangor is now part of. In a keenly contested game, it was Bangor who took the lead five minutes from the start, and went on to win 26-21.
With the game structured into four 20-minute quarters and with many substitutions throughout, this was an opportunity for both sides to experiment with various player combinations and positions. Bangor’s starting fifteen had a shaky start, dropping the ball from the first kick off. However, this proved to be a minor blip as the first quarter saw Bangor enjoying most of the possession, and keeping the visitors in their own half. Where last season Bangor seemed unable to turn possession and attacking play into points, it now looks like the spark and penetration has returned. After just five minutes, a cleanly won line-out was quickly passed to Jason Morgan who crashed through the CIYMS defence to score under the posts. Despite other opportunities for both sides, the first quarter finished with just this score and Bangor leading 7-0.
Having finished the first quarter strongly, and with a number of substitutions in place, CIYMS started the second quarter with renewed vigour, keeping Bangor pinned down in their own 22. Bangor displayed a sound defence, and good clearance kicking relieved the pressure on many occasions. After ten minutes, a slick move through the CIYMS back line allowed them to break through and with a clear run to the line, seemed sure to score. Only a determined chase back and tackle by Jamie Lemon prevented this but, with no other Bangor defence, the ball popped up for another CIYMS player to follow up and drive over. The visitors were now on the attack and continued to play confidently. However, just two minutes later and with the referee playing advantage after a fumbled pass in the CIYMS back line, Chris Morgan scooped up the ball and ran in from thirty metres to score unopposed under the posts. At half time, the score remained 14-7 to Bangor.
The start of the third quarter was similar to the first with Bangor back in the ascendancy. This time it was Serelli Magoon’s ‘direct’ approach that produced the next points. A determined drive, with support from other Bangor forwards, crashed through the CIYMS defence for a score to the right of the posts. With the conversion missed, the score was now 19-7. Once more CIYMS came straight back, but some excellent covering tackles kept Bangor in front. However, a fine move from the CIYMS full back split the Bangor back line, allowing him to run in under the posts to reduce the gap to 19-14. Once more Bangor fought back and, with a flowing move that looked like it had come straight from the training ground, captain Rob McCausland produced a fine try close to the right touchline. Despite the difficult angle, Jason Morgan converted to make the score now 26-14.
The final quarter was an evenly fought period of play. However, once more it was the CIYMS full back that capitalised on a gap in the Bangor defence to run in his second try, bringing the final score to 26-21.
This was an entertaining and encouraging Bangor performance that drew good performances from many players, and augers well for the rest of the season. The focus now turns to next Saturday (27th August) when Bangor travel to neighbours Donaghadee, to contest the Rodney Gray Cup. Although billed as a pre-season friendly, there is no doubt that this local derby will be keenly fought. As Bangor’s 2nd XV are also playing at Donaghadee, the club would encourage as many supporters that are able to make the short trip, to gather at Donaldson Park for the joint kick-off at 12:30pm.