Valiant effort despite defeat at Harlequins
A hastily assembled team produced a gutsy performance against Harlequins in the SONI Premiership, finally losing by 38-12.
We're into May, and still playing rugby. Having finished with the All Ireland League some weeks ago, it was an unwelcome call that advised Bangor that their previously postponed fixture against Harlequins would have to be played, especially after both sides had come through a testing time as the end of their respective AIL campaigns. For Bangor, this was a fixture of no consequence, with nothing at stake as regards promotion, relegation or league title. However, this would not have been the case for Harlequins as they were in contention to win this section of the SONI Premiership.
With many more familiar faces unavailable or still on the injury list, the call went out to players from any team to step up and fulfil the fixture. As the team ran out onto the pitch, it was obvious that there were less than half the normal 1st XV players represented, and the most of the rest more used to playing with the 3rds. For some, this would be the first occasion they had pulled on the club jersey as a 1st XV player - quite a baptism of fire.
Bangor kicked off and were soon conscious of the home side's attacking prowess. Fours scores in the first half by Mark Glover, Ewan Strang, Daryl Marshall and Ethan Boal took the score to 26-0, and things were looking bleak for Bangor. Having said that, Bangor had enjoyed long periods of possession inside the Harlequins half, only to be undone by either weak tackling or loose ball control, giving their opponents the opening they needed to counter attack with clinical precision.
As the second half got underway, Bangor sought to restore some pride and produced a good team try which was finished off by Rob Grant crashing over for the try, and Mark Widdowson converting to get 7 points on the scoreboard. This gave Bangor a boost, which saw them produce more good forward led attacks. However, a turn-over in the centre of the pitch saw Harlequins break free with men to spare, resulting in a try for Connor McAuley, which made the score now 31-7. Another break out of defence by Harlequins was finished off by Toby Manus to further extend their lead to 38-7. However, Bangor weren't finished yet and fought back with determination. With play now mostly in the Harlequins half, Bangor showed patience as they moved steadily forward. As the Harlequins defence haled each attack, it looked like Bangor would be denied another score. But with the final play, Zac Kerr displayed a last big push as he twisted and turned out of the tackles before stretching over to score. Although the conversion was missed, Bangor had added an extra level of respectability to the final scoreline, and demonstrated a determination that every one of their supporters was proud of.
As the end of the day, the Bangor players had put in a remarkable performance against a side which plays in a division higher than them in the AIL. Also, given that they probably hadn't played together before and therefore had little in the way of familiarity when it came to set plays, their attitude and resilience was to be admired. With this approach to teamwork and playing in general, the club can look forward with confidence to the coming season when each of the three senior teams reform and settle back into their particular league and cup competitions.