Bangor blown off course by Seapoint
In a game where Bangor struggled against both the elements and officials, it was Seapoint who took their chances to win narrowly by 12-8, with Bangor having to settle for a losing bonus point.
With little in the way of shelter on any side, the strong southerly wind blew unhindered down the pitch. Having elected to play with the wind advantage in the first half, Bangor prepared to receive Seapoint’s opening kick-off, hoping for a more committed start than they had shown last week against Tullamore.
Knowing that they had to keep the ball in hand and run at Bangor, as kicks were likely to gain little or no ground, Seapoint started at pace and within a minute had won a penalty on Bangor’s twenty two after an offside infringement. Although this was a short-range kick at goal, the ball was unable to penetrate the prevailing wind, and fell short before being cleared upfield by Bangor.
As Bangor started to get their game together, they produced better periods of play, once again dominating the scrums and successfully contesting the lineouts. This pressure in the set pieces earned them a penalty after 10 minutes and, although it was on the half way line, the kick at goal with the assistance of the wind looked like a good bet. Nathan Graham’s kick went high and easily made the distance, but just drifted wide of the posts.
Although play was mostly in their opponent’s half, Bangor were struggling to break down the solid Seapoint defence and, as time marched on, it was becoming more urgent to get points on the board to carry into the second half. Bangor’s frustration was then compounded when a full-frontal attack by Seapoint resulted in a try for their hooker Brian Lyons as he barged over the line. Then, to rub salt in Bangor’s wounds, the Seapoint kicker Connor O’Reilly defied the wind and successfully added the conversion to put the home side ahead by 7-0.
With almost half an hour gone, and just 3 minutes after Seapoint’s try, Bangor finally made the breakthrough they badly needed. Good pressure from the restart put Seapoint on the back foot, forcing them to play the ball in their own twenty two. As the Bangor forwards piled in, it was Lewis Stevenson who won the ball back and set up another attack. With out-half Lewis Bret and winger David Charles to his left, Stevenson passed to Bret who showed great determination and strength to drive through the Seapoint defence and score close to the left hand touchline. Nathan Graham appeared to have judged the conversion well, and confidently turned away once he realised the kick was on target. However, the height and pace of the ball as it was carried on by the wind must have caught the touch judges unaware and, as they looked at each other, their flags stayed down. A clearly bemused Graham looked to the referee, but was met with silence.
Nonetheless, Bangor had scrambled back to within 2 points, and were looking the more likely side to score again next. However, they were falling foul of a referee who considered Bangor to be repeatedly off-side, causing the penalty count to climb and, as a result, their attacking opportunities to falter. Then, some 5 minutes later, David Bradford was yellow-carded for the illegal use of the shoulder when making a tackle. Not only did Seapoint make little from the penalty, but Bangor then turned over possession and won a penalty for themselves. It was unfortunate that the referee then viewed the use of a Seapoint shoulder, off the ball, as not warranting a yellow card, fuelling calls from the touchline for a more consistent approach to both sides. To their credit, the Bangor players didn’t let this issue distract them, with Graham stepping up for the kick at goal from close to the half way line. This time the kick sailed through the uprights to put Bangor ahead for the first time in the match by 7-8.
As the fortieth minute approached, Bangor were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch. Having then won the lineout, they set about the Seapoint line with the forwards offering themselves as battering rams before switching the attack through the backs. However, a long pass towards the wing was caught in the wind before going into touch and, with that, the chance was gone with the referee’s blow of the half time whistle.
As Bangor got the second half got underway, they would have been in no doubt as to what was needed if they were to keep their slender lead. An explosive start, in complete contrast to the opening half, saw Bangor surge into the Seapoint twenty two. As the pack rumbled forward, Seapoint struggled to contain them, allowing Lewis Stevenson to be driven over before dropping his body over the ball. Although the Bangor players celebrated what they considered to be a try, the referee had the final say and deemed the ball to have been held up by a Seapoint arm. With the put-in at the resulting 5 metre scrum, Bangor had another chance to secure the score, but the ball was handled in the untidy scrum and Seapoint used the penalty to safely clear their lines.
Shortly afterwards, Bangor were dealt another refereeing blow when Ross McCloskey was shown the yellow card after making a tackle from an off-side position. Taking this set-back on the chin, Bangor dug in and concentrated on defence. Having appeared to have successfully ridden the storm before McCloskey’s return, Bangor found themselves out of shape in defence with Seapoint creating a man overlap on the right hand side. Seapoint’s well-timed and secure passing took full advantage of the opportunity which saw Brian Duggan touch down for the try, putting the home side ahead again by 12-8.
With a quarter of the match remaining, the Bangor players appeared to have found renewed vigour, with promising breaks by Bret, Charles and Stevenson. In fact, Charles looked to have done all the hard work by slipping free from his tacklers before releasing Bradford with a clear run to goal. However, the touch judge spotted a wayward boot touching the line, and the play was brought back for a lineout.
Seapoint had a penalty opportunity after yet another Bangor offside offence, but the kick was well wide. As the clock counted down, Bangor threw everything into attack, keeping Seapoint pinned down in their own twenty two. Despite what looked like every forward having a run at the line, Bangor were unable to find the gap needed to breech the Seapoint defence. With the final whistle, Bangor were left counting the cost of missed opportunities and suspect decisions, which ultimately led to their defeat. However, in what already looks like being a closely fought league, the consolation of a losing bonus point will undoubtedly play an important part as the season progresses.
Next Saturday sees Bangor on the road again, this time to Midleton in County Cork. Last season’s fixture was a nail-biting affair in which Bangor came away with a last minute bonus point victory that effectively saved them from dropping into the relegation play-offs. Given Bangor’s positive start to the season, there is much to be confident about with another good victory hopefully in their sights.