Job done at Bective
It may not have been a classic game of rugby, but Bangor produced a determined performance in Dublin to record an important 0-16 win and move up to fourth place in AIL Div 2C.
On a day when Bangor were fielding three senior teams in vital cup and league competitions, it was an excellent club performance to record wins for the 1sts in the AIL, the 2nds in the Crawford Cup, the 3rds in the Forster Plate, and to have the Upritchard Park pitches in such good condition despite the heavy rain during the week is a real credit to our hard-working Utilities Team. The icing on the cake was the added successes for Bangor Grammar School’s Medallion and 1st XV in their cup competitions. A good day all round for lovers of rugby in Bangor!
The Bective fixture was a bit of an unknown for the current Bangor team, as it was the first time they had played there. However, there was already a strong connection between the clubs with Harry Williams having coached at Bective in the 90’s, and the likes of Bryn Cunningham, Mark Edwards and Robbie Milliken all having played there for some seasons. Playing on an artificial surface, and in front of an impressive stand, was going to be a new experience for the majority, if not all, of the Bangor players. Added to this uncertainty, was the memory of the controversial fixture between the two teams at Upritchard Park earlier in the season, when Bective stole the points from an under-par Bangor side. Given this unusual mix of circumstances, the scene was set for an interesting match. A good number of Bective supporters had turned out to urge on their men, but this was largely matched by an impressive travelling contingent of over 30 Bangor supporters, including the now legendary ‘pink ladies’.
Following a minute’s silence prior to kick-off as a mark of respect to the untimely passing of staunch Bective member, David Walsh, it was the home side that got the game underway. The wind was playing mostly across the pitch, so it offered little advantage to either side. However, it caused the ball to sometimes hang in the air, something that caught Phil Broderick out in the opening minutes when he mistimed a tackle on a Bective player, taking him out in the air, and receiving a yellow card as a result. Not the start Bangor were hoping for. However, they rallied well and rode out the sin bin period without conceding points. In fact, as Broderick took to the field again, it was Bangor who scored through the boot of Mark Widdowson after Bective conceded a penalty in front of their own posts. Bective had a chance to level a few minutes later, but their kick went wide and the chance was gone.
As play continued, it was becoming obvious that Bangor were dominating in the scrums and frequently disrupting the Bective lineouts. Unfortunately, the physical nature of the battle between the forwards produced a serious injury to the Bective captain and number 8, Eoin Sweeney. Seeing any player stretchered off the pitch is never good to see, and everybody at Bangor wishes him a full and speedy recovery. Bective’s problems continued immediately afterwards when another penalty was successfully converted by Widdowson to double Bangor’s lead to 0-6, a scoreline that remained until the referee’s half time whistle.
Bangor got the second half underway and immediately picked up where they had left off before. Early pressure led to an attacking scrum just 5 metres from the Bective line. Preparing themselves for a big Bangor shove, Bective had all eight locked into the scrum and ready to defend. However, as the ball arrived at the feet of Jack Cooke at number eight, he simply picked up and ran around the Bective back row to touch down just to the right of the posts. Widdowson made the conversion, putting Bangor ahead by 0-13.
The Bangor scrum was responsible for the next score, when Bective were guilty of pulling it down. This resulted not only in another three points from Widdowson’s boot, but also a yellow card for the Bective second row, Bastien Brethes.
From this point on, and with a quarter of the match remaining, the game looked all but won. With repeated stoppages and another yellow card apiece, both sides seemed resigned to the outcome. Bangor looked to have got over for a second try after good pick and drives close to the Bective line, but the referee judged the ball to have been held up. As the final whistle came, Bangor were happy to have put their earlier defeat behind them and deny the home side a losing bonus point.
This result moves Bangor up the table into fourth place and into the play-off zone. Next week’s fixture against fifth place Bruff will be just as important as this one if Bangor are to stay in contention at the top end of the league table. Certainly as the league campaign gets down to its last six fixtures, nothing can be taken for granted, and no quarter will be given by any side, whether they are high flying or fighting the prospect of relegation. However, if Bangor can continue to produce solid, workmanlike performances like this, and the side remains largely intact, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be in contention for a shot at promotion.