Halloween shocker at Tullamore
By Roger Corbett
Bangor’s poor run of results at Tullamore over the past couple of seasons continued with a disappointing 27-0 defeat.
Having picked up some injuries from last week’s tough encounter against City of Derry, Bangor were without Lewis Stevenson, James Henly and Stephen Moore, while in the backs they were missing Liam Preston and Adam Alexander. However, with the return from injury of Phil Whyte in the front row, and the brief return of Lewis Bret at scrum half, the side was still a force to contend with, and more than capable of putting in another good performance. Given that Bangor were sitting in second place behind Midleton and Tullamore were languishing at the bottom of the table, this would be a great opportunity to keep their challenge for promotion on track, especially as there were potentially more challenging fixtures ahead. For Tullamore’s part, having lost their opening four games, and with just a solitary losing bonus point to show for their efforts, they were viewing this fixture as a cup final, and were hoping to get their league campaign a boost before it reached the half way stage. History was on their side, with Bangor having suffered two crushing defeats at Spollanstown Road in the last two seasons.
With the swirling wind playing mostly across the pitch, Tullamore kicked off. It was good to see Bangor switched on from the start, and not repeating some of the early mistakes seen in recent matches. However, after just 7 minutes, Tullamore had a lineout just inside Bangor’s twenty two. They won the ball cleanly and immediately formed a rolling maul. Bangor’s efforts to either direct it into touch, or halt it completely failed, and the Tullamore forwards trundled on towards the Bangor line. With Bangor now in full reverse, they succumbed to dragging the maul down, giving the referee no option but to award the penalty try, and also show a yellow card to Mike Ferguson.
Having gone 7-0 ahead so quickly, and in such a straightforward manner, obviously bolstered the home side who continued to enjoy most of the possession and attacking play. They continued to use their sound lineout to good effect, and were able to use their mauls again to pressure the Bangor line. Somehow, Bangor defended manfully and, having struggled to mount any meaningful attacks of their own, managed to prevent Tullamore adding to their score by the end of the first half.
As the Tullamore players left the pitch for the half time interval, to escape the wet and windy conditions and change out of their wet shirts, Bangor concentrated on how to turn the game around and deliver the kind of performance they know they are capable of. Bangor restarted and brought play deep into the Tullamore half. However, they were unable to capitalise on a couple of good attacks which, in turn, were well cleared by the boot of the Tullamore defence. In fact, after just 5 minutes of the second half, it was the boot of Carl Dunne who put Tullamore further ahead with a long range kick for goal. Bangor had a chance to claw back 3 points with a penalty of their own, but Nathan Graham’s kick drifted wide in the wind. By contrast, Dunne was on fire with his kicking, and added another penalty, this time from out on the left hand side, to make the score 13-0.
As the minutes passed, Bangor knew that a score was needed soon if there was any chance of recovering something from the game. However, unlike last weekend’s game where they raised the tempo and ran at their opponents, they now looked unable to upset the now confident home side. To make matters worse, with just 13 minutes remaining, Carl Dunne benefitted from an over-stretched Bangor back line to run in for a try in the right hand corner. Despite the wind and touchline position, his subsequent conversion split the uprights to take his side to 20-0 and with it, practically extinguish any hope left in the Bangor camp.
Tullamore played sensibly for the remainder of the game, putting in long kicks to touch and keeping Bangor pinned down inside their own half. Their growing dominance in the lineouts also meant that although they had kicked to touch, they had a good chance of stealing the ball back. This was the case as the game entered its final 5 minutes, with the result that Bangor conceded another penalty inside their twenty two. Bangor might have been expecting a kick to touch close to their goal line, but quick thinking by Tullamore saw their winger in open space on the opposite side of the pitch. The cross field kick was weighted perfectly, allowing Tom Gilligan to run onto it and score in the corner. Again, Dunne’s conversion was accurate making the score now 27-0. Bangor’s defeat was now complete, and they were no doubt glad to hear the final whistle before Tullamore could strike for their bonus point try.
As the players trudged from the pitch, their disappointment was obvious. However, this setback needs to be addressed and then put behind them as they now prepare to face Bruff at Upritchard Park next Saturday. The visitors from Munster are unlikely to be in generous mood, as it was Bangor’s heavy defeat at Tullamore in the closing stages of last year’s season that pushed Bruff into the uncomfortable position of the relegation play-offs. Now sitting just one place below Bruff in the current league standings, Bangor know that a home win will be vital if they are to get their league campaign back on track. With a corporate lunch taking place beforehand, a large crowd is expected to encourage the players as they pick themselves up and deliver what they, and their supporters know the team is capable of.