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1xv - Match centre

Sat 1 Dec 14:30 - Ulster Bank League - Division 2C Full time

Important win at Seapoint

Bangor put their Kilboggett Park hoodoo behind them with an important, if not perfect, 10-12 win

Bangor’s trip to Seapoint bore all the hallmarks of their difficult trips to Tullamore, in that both sides were sitting below them in the league, and both grounds had seen Bangor on the receiving end of home victories. With the painful experience of suffering another heavy defeat at Tullamore still in most people’s minds, Bangor knew that Seapoint would be eyeing up another home win, especially as this weekend marked the 40th anniversary of their moving to Kilboggett Park. Thankfully, the awful weather conditions were clearing as the kick-off approached and, with a firm playing surface, conditions were the best Bangor had experienced at this pitch so far.

As Seapoint got the game underway, the Bangor faithful who had made the trip held their breath to see how their side would start. Things didn’t go well for Seapoint as their kick-off didn’t travel the requisite distance, and Bangor had the scrum. As scrum half Mark Widdowson put the ball into the scrum, the Bangor pack immediately demonstrated their power as they pushed Seapoint back with ease. As the minutes passed, the Bangor supporters weren’t holding their breath any more, but were more likely to be gasping for breath as their side played with an intensity and purpose that had been missing in recent games. This pressure kept Seapoint pinned down in their own twenty two for all of the opening 15 minutes. In that time, Bangor had three penalties in kickable positions, but each of the kicks drifted agonisingly wide of the posts. However, with Bangor asking all the questions, it looked to be only a matter of time before the first score would come.

This assumption proved to be correct, but unfortunately it was Seapoint who scored from a fortuitous interception that saw them run the length of the pitch to touch down for a converted try. To be 7-0 down after having had the opportunities to be 0-9 ahead was a bitter pill for Bangor. However, they stuck to their game plan and looked likely to claw back this early deficit. Whether it was nerves on Bangor’s part, or the unexpected boost that Seapoint had enjoyed, the remainder of the first half produced no further scores.

The half time whistle gave coaches Mike Ferguson and Lewis Stevenson the opportunity to refocus their players and encourage them to cut out the mistakes that had proved costly so far. This timely advice was evident from Bangor’s restart. Once again they pushed their hosts back into their red zone, and after just 8 minutes of play, the pressure finally told on the Seapoint pack as they pulled down a maul as Bangor were moving towards the goal line. This action resulted in a yellow card for the Seapoint second row, and a penalty to Bangor which they elected to take as a scrum. Another dominant scrum saw the Bangor pack trundle towards the Seapoint line, with the ball being well controlled at number 8 by Curtis Stewart, before being picked up and driven forward. Despite the close attention of two Seapoint defenders, Stewart’s power saw him crash over for a well-deserved try. Bangor’s woes with the boot continued as Nathan Graham’s well-struck conversion attempt was judged to have missed the target, but at 7-5 Bangor were right back in the game, and looking strong.

With Seapoint now reduced to 14 men, Bangor knew this was going to be their best chance to capitalise and add another score. As the clocked ticked down on the Seapoint yellow card, Bangor’s chances looked to be gone. However, after a further 9 minutes, Bangor mounted another attack on the left wing. Having brought play once again close to the Seapoint line, Bangor took the ball to ground and formed a ruck. Bangor showed patience before Lewis Stevenson picked up, pushed a defender away with his right hand, then crashed over to score just to the left hand side of the Seapoint posts. This time Graham’s kick was successful, putting Bangor ahead by 7-12, with just a quarter of the game remaining.

By now, there were several stoppages to allow attention for various Seapoint players. As they looked to be tiring, the hope was that Bangor would up the tempo even more and put the result beyond reach of the home side. However, with credit to Seapoint, they responded well and forced Bangor into making mistakes, from which they conceded penalties. Seapoint’s kicker, Cian Buckley, had shown good positional kicking throughout the game, but fortunately for Bangor, he was only able to convert one kickable opportunity, bringing his side to within 2 points of Bangor. The final few minutes were a tense affair, but once Bangor were in possession, they wisely kept the ball close and ran the clock down until the final whistle.

The delight and relief on both the Bangor players and supporters was clear to see. To have been in control of the game for so long, and having produced most of the scoring opportunities, it would have been a travesty to have finished on the losing side. There may also be some feelings of regret that they weren’t able to convert their chances into points, particularly with the boot. However, it was the result that mattered, and they can now move forward with renewed confidence and with the knowledge that there is plenty more in the tank. This wasn’t perhaps the best Bangor performance, but it was possibly one of their most important. With a difficult away fixture to league leaders Ballina next weekend, Bangor have received the lift they needed at just the right time. If they can tidy up the errors and build on their positive playing plan, there is no reason why they can’t produce another winning performance and move further up the league.

Quilter Kids First Champions winner – November: Hinckley RFC

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League table

# Team Pl Pts
1. Ballina 8 32
2. Midleton 8 30
3. Bruff 8 27
4. Omagh 8 25
5. Bangor 8 21
6. Malahide 8 19
7. Tullamore 8 13

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