Bangor turn the tables on Dungannon
By Roger Corbett
Just 4 days after losing heavily at Ballyclare, Bangor 2nds bounced back with a much better performance to beat Dungannon 2nds by 26-10 in the Provincial League.
This rescheduled fixture took place under the Upritchard Park lights on a cold and breezy evening. The last meeting between these two sides was at Dungannon in the opening round of the Towns Cup, with the home side recording a narrow victory. With Bangor languishing at the bottom end of the league table, a win was vital to kickstart their season as it progresses through its second half.
Dungannon kicked off with the wind at their backs, and immediately went on the offensive. Bangor appeared surprised by the ferocity of attack and were back-pedalling for most of the opening 10 minutes. In fact, it looked like a Dungannon score was inevitable as they laid siege to the Bangor line. However, the Bangor tackling was a world away from last weekend’s poor display, and their improved line speed and first up tackles proved to be effective in denying the visitors.
Having weathered this opening onslaught, Bangor seemed to grow in confidence, with some strong runs out of defence and into attack. This was backed up with dominant scrummaging and good work in the lineouts by the forwards. It was from such a counter attack that the first score came. Good drives from the pack brought play into the Dungannon half. Eventually the ball was moved to the backs and into the hands of Adam McCusker, who set off on a powerful run deep into the Dungannon twenty two. He looked like he might just make it to the line, but was unable to shake off the Dungannon defenders. However, he managed to recycle the ball which, after a couple more phases close to the goal line, was picked up by Keith Rossan who dived over from close quarters to score to the right of the posts. His conversion attempt was blown off target, but Bangor were on the scoreboard by 5-0 after 18 minutes of play.
This lead was short-lived, however, as Dungannon benefitted from a turn-over inside their own twenty two and broke clear to score under Bangor’s posts. Bizarrely, the Dungannon kicker chose to drop-kick the conversion and duly missed. Therefore the chance to go ahead was lost and the sides were tied at 5-5.
In similar fashion to their previous meeting, the game see-sawed again towards Bangor as Rossan made another telling break through the centre before setting McCusker clear, albeit with most of the Dungannon half to cover before reaching the goal line. However, McCusker showed a clean pair of heels to the chasing defenders, touching down between the posts. Rossan’s kick this time was successful, putting his side 12-5 ahead, which is how it remained until the half time whistle.
As Bangor got the second half underway, they now had the benefit of the breeze at their backs, although it had lessened in intensity. Straight away, they went on the attack and, after just 4 minutes, an Andrew Jackson charge was taken on by Dave Miller who made the final few metres to score in the left hand corner. Rossan was now in great kicking form, and cleanly converted the kick from the left hand touchline, putting Bangor more comfortable ahead by 19-5.
Dungannon continued to create problems for Bangor, especially at the breakdown where their determined rucking caught out the Bangor forwards on several occasions, many of which resulted in a penalty. After 12 minutes of play, Dungannon won such a penalty on Bangor’s 5 metre line. Bangor lined out across their goal line in preparation for Dungannon’s tap and go. However, as they expected the ball to be passed wide across the Dungannon backs, Bangor left a gap directly in front of the scrum half who took the tap to himself and simply nipped through the opening to score a simple try. The conversion was missed, but Dungannon had managed to get themselves back into contention at 19-10.
Over the next 10 minutes or so, play switched between the sides as each started promising attacks only to be let down by handling errors. The wind was also carrying the ball further than Bangor expected, and a positional kick for Ned Stewart to chase was just too long, allowing Dungannon to safely touch down and get the resulting 22 metre dropout. However, their poor drop kick allowed Bangor to run straight back, again starting with Rossan. When the ball came to McCusker on the Dungannon twenty two, it looked like there was too much for him to do with defenders directly in front of him. Undeterred, he changed tack and produced a spurt of speed that saw him take a diagonal route through the Dungannon defence to score a superb individual try under the posts. With the addition of Rossan’s conversion, Bangor were now 26-10 ahead and with the 4-try bonus point secured as well. Good positional kicking and ball retention by Bangor from this point denied Dungannon any further meaningful attacking opportunities and, as the final whistle came shortly afterwards, it was the home side that celebrated an impressive and emphatic victory.