Great start for Gryphons in new league
The 3rds put on an impressive display against Academy 2nds in their opening Provincial League Division 5 fixture, finally winning by 38-19.
With a stiff breeze blowing straight into their faces, a strong looking Academy side got the game underway. Having achieved two league promotions in just two seasons, the 3rds have plenty of confidence in their abilities, but would undoubtedly have been aware that with each step up, the opposition would be stronger and the games tougher. However, within 2 minutes of the kick-off, their expansive style of running rugby paid off once again when the ball found Ned Stewart on the right wing, and his speed was enough to get him over in the corner for the first score of the day.
Academy had an opportunity to recoup 3 points when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, although outside Bangor’s twenty two. However, the strength of the prevailing wind became apparent when the well-struck kick fell short of the posts. Undeterred, the visitors kept up their attack and caused Bangor to concede another penalty, this time closer to their line. A quick tap and go caught the Bangor players napping, allowing Academy the simplest of scores under the posts. With the added conversion, the score was now 5-7.
As time passed, and given the assistance of the wind in positional kicking, it was obvious that Bangor could do with more points to take into the second half. Eventually, after 32 minutes, James NeiL drove over from short range following a good lineout and maul close to the Academy line. Again, Ned Stewart’s kick drifted wide, but at least Bangor were ahead again by 10-7. However, this was short-lived as a clever chip and chase by Academy was successfully gathered and touched down for an unconverted try, putting them back in front by 10-12 within a minute of the half time whistle.
Bangor’s concerns grew within 7 minutes of the start of the second half, when the wind now helped the Academy kicker convert a penalty to stretch their lead to 10-15. However, Bangor’s response was immediate. From the restart, Academy fumbled the ball giving Bangor the scrum. With the ball then cleanly won, a textbook backline move saw Jonny Baxter cut through, leaving the Academy players looking at each other, before running through to touch down under the posts. With Stewart’s successful conversion, Bangor were now back in front by 17-15.
Bangor’s desire to play wide rugby is to be admired, but in many cases their execution of this was less than perfect, with rather optimistic passes going to ground on several occasions. The error rate continued with penalties being conceded, one of which was again converted by Academy to nose them ahead by 17-18.
As the game entered the final quarter, things were at last beginning to click for Bangor. Their passing and backline movement started to come together and, with a growing sense that fitness was also on their side, they looked the more likely to take control. This was perfectly demonstrated by Jonny Baxter who outran the Academy defence before scoring Bangor’s bonus point try towards the right hand side of the posts.
Bangor’s tail was now up, and their attacks were repeatedly causing Academy problems. When a break down the left wing was brought to an illegal halt, the ball was kicked to touch on the Academy 5 metre line. The lineout was secured and a maul formed. As Bangor edged closer and the line in clear sight, captain Jamie Mendez peeled away and dived over for a well-deserved try. With just 10 minutes remaining, and now 27-18 ahead, Bangor cut loose with two further tries from Ned Stewart and Gareth Moore to put the game finally to bed by 39-18.
A bonus point win in their opening fixture will be a great boost for the players and coaching staff in what is likely to be the Gryphons’ most challenging season so far. Unfortunately they now have a three week wait until their next game, which will be back at Upritchard Park against Instonians 3rds. As this is again likely to be the only senior fixture that day, why not get down to the touchline and support this young and exciting team.