Bangor secure vital bonus point against Seapoint
Although beaten 6-11 by Seapoint, Bangor’s losing bonus point takes them out of the league’s danger zone and secures their place in Division 2C next season.
Once again, the player availability issues that have dogged Bangor this season continued, leaving the selectors no option but to blood some new young talent and re-organise the shape of the team. Given that this match had taken on a much greater significance following the unhelpful results from the last round of games, Bangor knew that they had to come away with something to show for their efforts, otherwise the prospect of having to fight for points in the last game of the season, away to Tullamore, would be necessary – not a pleasant thought. As for Seapoint, they were in a similar position, sitting below Bangor and fighting for their AIL survival.
Although wet underfoot after the previous day’s heavy downpours, playing conditions were good, with hardly any wind, and no direct sunshine. From Seapoint’s opening kick-off, Bangor struggled to collect and secure the ball, allowing the visitors to go on the attack immediately. Fumbled handling and missed kicks to touch did little to relieve the pressure, and it took almost 10 minutes for Bangor to finally enjoy some possession and take play into their opponent’s half. When they did, it was encouraging to see the pack back to their earlier good form, winning penalties from their opponent’s scrums, and disrupting their lineouts. However, it was a Seapoint penalty after Bangor were too slow in releasing at the breakdown that got the first points on the scoreboard. A simple kick from in front of Bangor’s posts was converted by Bain Champion to put the visitors ahead by 0-3 after 19 minutes of play. Bangor were looking more settled now, and playing better rugby, but were ultimately let down by poor handling. However, their patience in keeping play inside Seapoint’s territory was rewarded after 23 minutes when Mark Widdowson slotted home a penalty to level the scores at 3-3, which is how it remained at the end of the first half.
The nip and tuck between the sides continued in the second half, as first Seapoint went ahead with another Champion penalty, then this was cancelled out again by Widdowson’s successful kick shortly afterwards, making the score 6-6 with a quarter of the game remaining. However, the decisive breakthrough came shortly afterwards. Having worked their way back into Bangor’s twenty two, Seapoint patiently worked through the phases of repeated pick and drives, before their second row forward, Mark McCoy, got over the line for a try. Although the conversion was missed, Seapoint now had a 5 point lead, putting all the pressure back on Bangor. To their credit, the Bangor players responded well, forcing play back into the Seapoint twenty two, and laid siege to the goal line by way of several penalties, scrums and line-outs. Despite coming within inches of scoring, the visitors showed remarkable fortitude in defence and frustrated every attack Bangor could throw at them. In the end, it was Seapoint’s secure defence that came out on top and, as the referee blew for the end of the match, it was this that had earned them a hard-fought victory that keeps their hopes of retaining their senior status alive. As for Bangor, there were long faces as they made their way back to the changing room, thinking that their next league game at Tullamore could be make or break for them. However, as the other results in Division 2C started to filter through, it became clear that Bangor’s losing bonus point had been just enough to keep them out of the relegation play-off zone and secure their play in this league for another season.
It’s a credit to the coaching staff who have worked hard despite their ever dwindling supply of first choice players, and also the players themselves who put their age or positional changes behind them and produced a solid performance that was rewarded with that all-important bonus point. Bangor can now look forward to next week’s fixture at Tullamore in the knowledge that whatever the result, they will be celebrating afterwards. However, perhaps with the pressure now lifted from their shoulders, they may be able to relax and play the kind of expansive and exciting rugby that had been their hallmark earlier in the season.