BANGOR ALL IRELAND LEAGUE HOPES STAY ALIVE

BANGOR produced an outstanding 31-38 bonus point win at Clonmel

AIL DIVISION 2C

CLONMEL 31 BANGOR 38

BY ROGER CORBETT

BANGOR produced an outstanding 31-38 bonus point win at Clonmel which keeps their All Ireland League hopes alive ahead of the league’s final showdown at Upritchard Park next weekend.

Bangor certainly aren’t going to give up their place within the senior ranks of Irish rugby without a fight. That was obvious after their much more positive performance against Bruff last weekend, and with a largely unchanged side travelling to County Tipperary, there were high hopes that they could carry their momentum and produce another win that would keep them in the hunt for survival. However, with Clonmel sitting safely mid-table in the league, this would be no straightforward task. One of Bangor’s more notable player changes was the appearance of Rhys Larmour at out-half, stepping in for the unavailable Gareth Millar, and it was Larmour who made an early impression when a superbly weighted crossfield kick was gathered by Mark Widdowson on the wing, who then ran through for the try in the corner. Larmour added another impressive kick by converting the touchline conversion, putting Bangor ahead by 0-7.

Clonmel responded with a concerted period of pressure on Bangor’s goal line, which eventually forced a five-metre penalty and yellow card for Bangor’s Patrick Dobie. The quick tap-and-go capitalised on Bangor’s reduced manpower, resulting in a converted try for the home side which levelled the scores at 7-7.

With Bangor still looking unsteady, Clonmel came right back from the restart, and within minutes had scored again, giving them a 14-7 lead. Bangor managed to steady the ship, and re-jigged their pack formation by bringing on Ryan McCaroll from the bench. This proved to be a masterful substitution as it was McCaroll who got on the scoresheet next with a well-taken try, which Larmour duly converted to bring the sides level again.

Bangor then managed to contain the Clonmel attacks until Dobie returned from his time in the sin bin. Obviously anxious to atone for his earlier infringement, he powered through for a try close to the touchline. Larmour’s excellent kicking continued as he added the tricky conversion to put his side ahead again by 14-21, which remained the situation as the half-time whistle arrived.

With three tries already under their belt, Bangor knew that the try-scoring bonus point was now well within their grasp and, as the second half got underway, they wasted no time in securing it as Connor Scollan burst down the wing before touching down in the corner. No conversion this time, but Bangor had stretched their lead to 14-26.

The home side were spurred into action and replied with another converted try of their own which worryingly narrowed the gap to 21-26. However, as they continued to press for more points, a loose pass was intercepted by Craig Gilroy who showed that he has lost none of his pace, sprinting from the halfway line to score under the Clonmel posts. With Larmour’s straightforward conversion, Bangor had moved back into a more comfortable 21-33 lead.

Soon afterwards, Dobie was on hand again to score his second try of the game which should have put the game beyond Clonmel’s reach at 21-38. However, all credit to Clonmel who fought back with another converted try to earn them a bonus point, and then, with the last play of the game, they successfully kicked a penalty to bring the final score to 31-38, which also brought the reward of a second losing bonus point.

It was an afternoon of high drama for all three clubs fighting it out at the bottom end of the league table. With Ballina beating Omagh, there is now just one point separating the three sides as the league reaches its climax this weekend.

There are many mathematical permutations as to who could face either automatic relegation or a playoff to remain in the league, but the simple fact is that Bangor must win their home fixture against Midleton if they want to have any realistic chance of survival. With Ballina travelling to league champions elect Clogher Valley and Omagh hosting third placed Enniscorthy, it will be a nervous time for all three clubs until the final outcome becomes clear at the end of the day.

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