Bangor win with bonus against Ballina

Bangor rugby





A RESOUNDING 31-14 bonus point win at home against Ballina moved Bangor off the foot of Division 2C and renews optimism for the remainder of their league campaign.

While a fixture between the bottom two sides in the league may not have the same appeal as for those at the top, this game was of huge importance for both sides in their efforts to move away from the uncomfortable end of the table.

Ballina had already beaten Bangor in December, so they were hoping for a repeat of that performance. For Bangor’s part, they knew that nothing other than a win at home was required if their desire to remain in the All Ireland League was to be kept alive.

Although there had been icy conditions during the week, the Upritchard Park pitch was in perfect playing condition and, with a slight breeze blowing into their faces, Bangor got this eagerly anticipated game underway.  Although both sides made early mistakes, it was Bangor who were first to settle and, after a series of good forward attacks, were rewarded with a Matt Bougoure try on the left hand side after just seven minutes of play. 

The wide angle and prevailing wind foiled the conversion attempt, but the confidence boost in getting points on the scoreboard first was considerable. Keen to build on this good start, Bangor pressed forward and after receiving a penalty after a high tackle had an attacking lineout deep inside the Ballina 22. The Bangor forwards safely gathered the ball and started to push towards the Ballina goal line. The big Mayo men dug in and seemed to have weathered the storm, however as the ball was freed from the back of the maul, it was quickly passed to Connor Lusty who cut through the defence before touching the ball down beside the Ballina posts. This time Gareth Millar added the conversion which put Bangor 12-0 ahead.

Within minutes of the restart, Ballina benefitted from a couple of penalties after some untidy play by Bangor. The second of these was taken quickly with a determined surge for the goal line. Despite Bangor’s equally determined defence, Ballina’s patience finally paid off several phases later with a converted try to close the points gap to 12-7. 

From Bangor’s restart the Ballina forwards secured the ball in a ruck, ready for their scrum half to deliver a long clearance kick downfield. But quick thinking by Jamie Thallon saw him push through the ruck before charging down the kick, gathering the ball and setting off for the goal line. As Ballina scrambled back, Mark Widdowson provided the immediate support but, trapped on the touchline, had the presence of mind to pass the ball back inside to Craig Burton who then crashed over for an opportunist try which stretched Bangor’s lead to 17-7, with just a quarter of the game played. 

Determined to get back on terms, Ballina pressurised Bangor for most of the remainder of the first half and on several occasions worked themselves into good attacking positions, but the excellent Bangor defence managed to soak it up and maintain their 10-point lead until the half-time break.

In similar fashion to the start of the first half, Bangor came out of the blocks at the start of the second with renewed vigour and within four minutes Mark Widdowson cut through for an excellent solo try under the Ballina posts, which he also converted.  Now with a 24-7 lead and the valuable try-scoring bonus point added, Bangor looked to be in control. However, a moment of indecision shortly afterwards when Ballina put in a high speculative kick proved costly as the chasing Ballina backs latched onto the ball and one pass later then scored under Bangor’s posts, to make the score a slightly less comfortable 24-14.

The Bangor players quickly put this error behind them and produced a quick reply in the form of another Widdowson try, this time in the left hand corner. Gareth Millar stepped up and added the tricky conversion, to restore Bangor’s earlier lead.

It’s perhaps disappointing that the final quarter of the game produced no further scores and was punctuated with mistakes by both sides. But as the referee blew for the end of the game, the sense of elation and relief was clear to see on the Bangor players’ and spectators’ faces alike.

Although relief would have been the initial reaction to this important win, there is now a sense of renewed optimism that the players will build on this performance and continue to work their way back up the league table and out of the danger zone.  Another good result at Omagh next weekend would certainly go a long way towards that.