A MUCH IMPROVED performance saw Bangor record a convincing 21-6 win against Bruff at Upritchard Park.

It was good to see a return to All Ireland League action following the break for the 6 Nations Championship. The past few weeks have provided time for Bangor to reflect on their perilous league position and work on ways to turn their results around.

Although this game against Bruff – who were pushing to secure their place in the promotion play-offs – was going to be another tough test, Bangor had pushed the Munster side hard in their previous meeting and hopes were high that this meeting would produce a more positive outcome.

For Bruff’s part, they needed another win to consolidate their place at the top end of the league, and ensure they finished in the play-off positions for promotion to Division 2B.

Bangor got the game underway, kicking off into a stiff headwind. However, this didn’t prove to be much of a hindrance as the Bangor quickly went on the attack and were camped deep inside the Bruff 22.

Early dominance in the scrums provided the first real scoring opportunity when Bangor’s five metre scrum looked to be setting up Matt Bougoure at number eight for a pick up and dive over, but an unfortunate handling error saw the chance slip away. This scenario was repeated soon afterwards, but again the chance was spoiled, leaving Bangor to rue their missed opportunities.

Meanwhile Bruff, who had been playing second fiddle so far, were gifted two penalties close to Bangor’s posts which they gratefully converted, moving them into a 0-6 lead.

As the first half continued, and no further scores conceded, Bangor might have been happy to take the six point deficit into the second half, when they would have the wind at their backs.  However, a high tackle saw resulted in a yellow card for Bruff and, with the extra man advantage, this provided Bangor with a great opportunity to get points on the scoreboard.

Within minutes of this penalty, Bangor looked to their backs to spread the game across a stretched Bruff defence, with Ally McIvor finishing off the move with a cutting run to dive over for Bangor’s opening try.  With Gareth Millar adding the conversion to put his side in front by 7-6, the referee blew for the end of the first half.

As Bruff got the second half underway, there were still several minutes remaining on their yellow-carded player. Sensing the momentum was with them, Bangor came out of the blocks with renewed vigour and within a minute of the restart had scored again, this time through Matt Bougoure who ghosted through the Bruff defence to score under the posts.  With the simple conversion added, Bangor were now 14-6 ahead and starting to look the more confident of the two sides.

With Bruff struggling to create a good attacking platform from their scrum and lineout set pieces, they struggled to make inroads into Bangor’s territory, and when they did, Bangor’s defence proved solid.  By contrast, when Bangor had an attacking scrum or lineout in Bruff’s twenty two, there was a sense of anticipation that another score would come.  Eventually, just as the game entered its final quarter, Bangor kicked a long penalty to touch and secured the subsequent lineout. The forwards drove the maul forward before Blair Morgan dropped over the line for Bangor’s third try.  Another good conversion from Millar now put Bangor ahead by 21-6, and with a realistic prospect of adding another try to earn a valuable bonus point.

However, this score had the effect of stirring Bruff into action and, while they were still unable to break through Bangor’s defence, they prevented Bangor from mounting many other meaningful attacks that might have led to the bonus point try.

When the final whistle arrived, the Bangor players and supporters were obviously delighted with the win, but maybe felt that the missing bonus point had been left on the field of play.

That sentiment rang true when reviewing results elsewhere, as Bangor – having worked hard for a deserved victory against strong opposition – found themselves dropping down another place to sit at the bottom of the league. With a day of unexpected results, relegation rivals Ballina and Omagh both picked up bonus point wins which more than cancelled out Bangor’s success.

With only two fixtures remaining in the league, every point will be crucial in determining who stays up and who drops down. Buoyed by this victory, Bangor will make the trip to Clonmel at the weekend confident of being able to muster another positive result.