Dungannon bring Bangor back to earth
Bangor’s opening success in the SONI Premiership was brought to an abrupt halt when they were outclassed by a slick Dungannon side, eventually losing by 45-12.
With eight changes to the teamlist that beat Rainey two weeks ago in the same competition, Bangor were taking the opportunity blooding some new, young talent in the absence of some unavailable regular players. With two tough games already behind them, Dungannon were already well into their stride with a fairly settled line-up.
The home side kicked off with a slight breeze at their backs and within 2 minutes were on the scoreboard when Bangor were caught out by a fluent backline move that was easily finished off with a try from scrum-half John Russell which was then converted by Duran Krummeck. Bangor soon found their own tempo and replied in like manner when Mike Weir simply cut through a surprised Dungannon defence to touch down under the posts. The simple conversion was added by Gareth Millar, putting the sides even at 7-7 after 10 minutes of play.
Now it was Bangor who were exerting most of the pressure, particularly in the scrums that started to force their opposite numbers to concede penalties. It was also good to see the lineouts starting to come together. Given these positives, it was unfortunate that while in Dungannon’s ‘red zone’ their attacking opportunities seemed to go to ground too easily. This proved costly when, having weathered a sustained period of pressure, a Dungannon counter-attack took advantage of Bangor being a man down through injury to produce an overlap on the right wing, giving Matthew Montgomery the time and space to run around the defence and score under the posts.
The following period of play was a tetchy affair with yellow cards for Dungannon’s Peter Doran and Bangor’s Ross McCloskey. With neither side able to take advantage when a man up, it looked like the score would remain at 14-7 by half time. However, Bangor were to fall to a sucker punch with the last play of the half. Another good backline break eventually found Dungannon’s Sean O’Hagan on the left wing. His weight and forward momentum proved unstoppable despite the brave efforts of Ben Webb and Gareth Wright – the combined weight of both was still no match for the big prop. Now 19-7 down at half time Bangor’s task was undoubtedly more difficult, but still not impossible.
Unfortunately, the opening few minutes of the second half saw three things that went a long way to pushing the game beyond Bangor’s reach. The first was a quirk of nature that Bangor are familiar at Upritchard Park. Having faced the wind in the first half, Bangor would have been looking forward to its assistance in the second. However, at pitch level it reversed its direction and the benefit was gone. Then, in similar fashion to Dungannon’s first try, the home side displayed more good ball handling to provide Stephen Todd with a try beside the Bangor posts. Finally, from the restart, a poorly timed tackle by David Bradford saw him yellow-carded. Despite these setbacks, it was good to see the Bangor side knuckle down and respond positively. Despite the lack of Bradford at the back of the scrum, Bangor still managed to pressurise the Dungannon pack. From a quickly heeled scrum, the ball was swung wide from left to right, finally finding Ben Webb who darted down the wing to score in the corner for his first try for the club. With the score now at 26-12, it looked like Bangor’s spirits had lifted and the game would remain a close affair. Alas, this was not to be the case as Dungannon’s impressive ball retention skills came to the fore. During periods of play that were more akin to Sevens rugby, where offloads and deft passes were cleanly executed, Dungannon repeatedly picked off the Bangor defence, eventually scoring three further tries to close out the game in convincing fashion by 45-12.
Although Bangor may have felt dejected by this defeat, there is still much to applaud – the impressive return by Mike Weir after a lengthy absence through injury, the improved success rate of the lineouts, the continued dominance of the scrums and the commendable performances from the new players in their first game at senior level. As many experienced players discovered last season, playing at this level and against a team in a league above is a big step up in terms of speed, skill and physicality. Hopefully this game will have proved to be a useful learning experience.
With a break in the SONI Premiership until December, all eyes now turn to Upritchard Park next Saturday when Bangor open their All Ireland League campaign against Tullamore.