Ballina put Bangor in a bit of bother
ENERGIA ALL IRELAND LEAGUE 2C
BY ROGER CORBETT
DEFEAT at Ballina coupled with other Division 2C results means Bangor face added pressure as the league prepares for its final round of fixtures.
Bangor made the long journey to County Mayo in the knowledge that a single point from the game would keep them out of the danger zone at the lower end of the league table. Ballina, on the other hand, needed a bonus-point win to realistically keep their Division 2C survival hopes intact.
Recent results for both sides suggested that this would be a close call. Ballina had picked up some recent good wins after a poor start to the season, whereas Bangor had shown great resolve last weekend against the league winners Instonians, despite being reduced to 14
men for most of the game.
Ballina got the game underway, playing with a strong wind at their backs for the opening half. An early penalty gave them the opportunity to put in a long kick to touch which they could follow up with an attacking lineout.
Bangor’s defence was up to the task and managed to hold up the ball as the Ballina men drove over the goal line. Although the immediate danger had been cleared, the early signs were ominous for Bangor and, just a few minutes later, those fears were realised when the Bangor defence was too slow to react to Ballina’s attack resulting in a relatively straightforward try which was also converted.
The restart gave Bangor a brief spell inside the Ballina half but, boosted by their early score, the home side came right back on the attack and once again exploited a flat-footed Bangor defence to drift through a big gap to score under the Bangor posts. The simple conversion moved Ballina further ahead by 14-0 after just eight minutes of play.
This early onslaught seemed to jolt the Bangor players into action and shortly afterwards Shay Storey was unlucky not to scoop up the ball after it had been chipped ahead, but knocked it on. Although Bangor mounted some promising attacks, more handling errors proved costly and handed the initiative back to Ballina.
However, Bangor’s perseverance eventually paid off after a determined run by Storey down the left wing was well finished with a touchdown in the corner. Kicking into the strong headwind made the already difficult touchline conversion impossible, but at least Bangor were on the scoreboard at 14-5.
Unfortunately, Storey’s game came to an abrupt end shortly afterwards when a high and clumsy Ballina tackle floored the Bangor man. Luckily for Ballina, the incident was missed by all the match officials. To add insult to injury, Ballina then produced another foray into Bangor’s 22 which was met with some poor tackling,
resulting in their third try.
Bangor worked hard to frustrate Ballina for the remainder of the first half, but a penalty conceded in the final minute allowed the home kicker to add another three points to bring the half-time score to 22-5.
As the sides turned around for the second half, Bangor went on the attack, but found a well-organised wall of defenders ahead of them. With Ballina often opting not to commit men to a ruck, they were able to repeatedly block Bangor’s attacks. By contrast, it was disappointing to see Bangor unable to replicate their earlier standard of defence and, after 20 minutes of the second half, they were found wanting once again as Ballina forced their way through for their vital bonus-point try.
Now 27-5 behind and with just a quarter of the game left to play, Bangor needed to find 17 points to scrape a losing bonus point, while also halting any further Ballina attacks. It looked like Andy Smyth was about to get Bangor back on track when he gathered the ball and burst through a ruck with a clear run to the Ballina line. However, the referee wasn’t happy with Smyth’s line through the ruck and pulled play back for a Ballina penalty.
Undeterred, Bangor sustained their attacks and soon afterwards were rewarded when a determined run by Thomas Boyd saw him shake off a tackler and power through to score under the Ballina posts.
With less than five minutes remaining, Mark Widdowson quickly drop-kicked the conversion to save time and get back on the attack. With nothing to lose, Bangor were now throwing the ball across the backs with more confidence. This renewed but late resurgence produced another Bangor try when Daniel Young finished off a good back line move with a try in the left hand corner. However, this proved to be the last play of the game, and Bangor had left it too late to salvage a losing bonus point.
On a day where a more positive result might have lifted Bangor within reach of the final promotion playoff position, it soon became apparent they had found themselves in a much less comfortable position when the other Division 2C results started to filter through.
The previously struggling teams below Bangor had been involved in fiercely contested dog-fights and had now clawed their way up to join Bangor in a closely packed group of teams, any one of which could drop into the relegation play-off position after the final round of fixtures in two weeks’ time.
For Bangor’s part, they now have another long trip to Cork where they face bottom side Sunday’s Well and will need to produce a much improved performance to keep their place in the season’s final league standings.