Thomond thumped by bonus-point Bangor
An unchanged Bangor side not only continued but improved upon what they started at Midleton last week by recording a 36-14 bonus point win at home against Thomond.
With the selectors keeping faith with the starting side that produced the important away win at Midelton, the only change was the addition of new signing, Jack Cooke, on the bench. Thomond had so far shown their ability to rack up some big scores and this was reflected in their lofty 3rd place in the league. However, a good result for Bangor would see them leapfrog past the Limerick side.
Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, Bangor got the game underway and from the outset looked fired up for the contest. As they harried the Thomond players, it didn’t take long before they won a penalty which Nathan Graham kicked, giving the home side an early 3-0 lead.
Looking at the large and heavy Thomond pack, it would have been understandable if the Bangor spectators were concerned about how the set pieces would work out. They need not have worried – from the opening scrums, it was clear that Bangor had the upper hand. This vital strength came to the fore following a series of penalties that brought Bangor well into the Thomond twenty two. Electing for the scrum over a kick at goal, the pack took the initial hit then slowly started to push their opposite numbers back. Thomond tried to dig in, but Bangor’s forward momentum carried them over the line before David Bradford touched down beside the posts for the opening try. With Graham’s straightforward conversion successfully added, Bangor were now ahead by 10-0 after 14 minutes.
Thomond were certainly not out of it. Their wide and expansive game saw them produce some strong attacks down the wings. However, once back in possession, Bangor wisely used the wind to keep pushing Thomond back into their own territory. This was the case after 24 minutes when a long kick to touch from a penalty saw Bangor in good attacking position. Bangor’s constantly improving lineout produced the secure platform from which their backs could now attack. As the ball came to Davy Charles it looked like he would be wrapped up by the Thomond defence. However, as he forced his way forward, he managed to break free and then sprinted clear of the last Thomond player to score between the posts. Again, Graham’s kick was good, and Bangor had gone further ahead by 17-0.
With no further points being scored by either side as the half time whistle arrived, there were worries on the touchline as to whether or not Bangor’s lead would be enough given the effect of the wind they would now face. These worries appeared to be justified when, just 4 minutes into the second half, Thomond’s talented winger, Daragh O’Neill ran through to score in the left hand corner. The tricky kick was then converted by Evan Cusack to narrow Bangor’s lead to 17-7.
With kicking for position no longer a viable option for Bangor, the players knew they would have to get their heads down and run at their opponents. Thankfully this suits Bradford’s style of play and, having wrestled his way free from a tackle, he broke through the centre and into Thomond’s twenty two. Although the Thomond defence reacted and caught up with him again, he managed to offload the ball to James Stewart who safely gathered the pass and ran through unhindered to touch down under the posts, making Graham’s conversion an easy one and pushing the score to 24-7, with 30 minutes left to play.
Despite being occasionally being pushed back by Thomond’s good positional kicking, Bangor looked the more confident as they repeatedly played their way out of trouble. However, following an unlucky loss of possession inside their own twenty two, Bangor found themselves back-pedalling, allowing Thomond to take advantage and swing the ball to O’Neill who cleared the Bangor defence before touching down close to Bangor’s posts. Once again Bangor’s lead had been pegged back, with the score now 24-14.
Bangor then suffered an unfortunate yellow card for Jack Cooke after 21 minutes, following an infringement at a ruck. However, despite being a man down, they sensibly concentrated on closing down the now sustained Thomond attack. As Cooke’s yellow card penalty counted down, Bangor simply soaked up the pressure and denied Thomond the opportunity to get closer. Patience then came into play, as Bangor won back possession and began to work their way up-field. Several pick-and-go moves by the forwards eventually brought play right up to the Thomond line. With the ruck now in the right hand corner, it looked like the obvious choice would be to swing the ball across the open back line. However, Gareth Wright found James Leary hovering in the narrow side and, with just the full back to beat, Leary’s power was enough to drive over for the bonus point try. To add to Bangor’s delight, Graham successfully added the difficult touchline conversion to put the home side comfortably ahead by 31-14.
As Bangor returned to full strength a few minutes later, it was clear that Thomond were now finding it tough going, with several stoppages for injuries and replacements. This unsettled the visitors who looked rattled in contrast to Bangor’s growing composure. As time was running out for Thomond, the home side struck the final blow with the last play of the game. As Bangor once again broke into the Thomond half, the ball was cleverly chipped over the approaching defence and into space. Davy Charles set off in pursuit and, as the ball sat up for him, he collected and ran through to score his second try of the day. Graham was unable to repeat his earlier success from the touchline but, as the referee blew for full time, it was of little consequence as Bangor’s score had now stretched to 36-14.
Last season’s Division 2B side were clearly disappointed by their loss, but Bangor were deserved winners and well worth their try-scoring bonus point. With a three week break from league action, Bangor’s next challenge is a tough Senior Cup quarter final contest against Division 1B side Ballynahinch at Upritchard Park next weekend.