Clogher Valley 6
Bangor made it to the final of the All-Ireland Junior Cup for the first time with a deserved 9-6 victory over last year’s finalists, Clogher Valley, at Upritchard Park.
On an excellent playing surface, with a large crowd braving the chilly but settled conditions, the opening five minutes were frenetic. A good receipt of the Bangor kick off, saw the Valley immediately on the offensive with Falconer being launched to make good headway up the middle.
A knock on from the home defence saw Stott make a fine run to bring play right into the Bangor 22. After a series of phases by Valley the ball came back from Best to Holme who landed a neat drop goal to put Valley 3-0 up after four minutes.
An injury to Valley lock, McKenna, saw Robinson restored to the second row for the first time since September.
With their noses in front, Valley tried to kick on from their early advantage. The home side however increasingly impose their game plan on the match. A good kick from Bangor out half Morgan brought the home side right back into the Valley half. Despite good defensive work by the Valley’s Moore and BJ Wilson the Bangor side had the visitors under the cosh in their 22 as the first quarter came to a close.
A series of attacks from Bangor eventually yielded a penalty on 22 minutes, with the home side’s winger, Widdowson, converting in front of the posts to level the score.
Things were to get worse for Valley two minutes later when the visitors were penalised for coming in from the side of a ruck. Widdowson again landed the penalty to give Bangor a 6-3 lead.
The rest of the second quarter saw Valley frustrated by Bangor’s better kicking game and committed back row with their flanker, Clegg, the game’s most influential player. With territorial dominance, Bangor were to add further to its score when, just before half time, a further indiscretion at the ruck by the Valley gifted another penalty to home side – which Widdowson again goaled to leave the Down men leading 9-3 at the break.
With Valley needing to restore the balance of the game the second half saw them start brightly. A charged down kick by Holme and a good run by Stott brought play well into the Bangor 22. With the Bangor line in sight Valley proceeded to launch attach after attack from a series of scrums and mauls with Ryan Wilson and Sharkey prominent in leading the attacks. Yet time after time the Bangor defence was resolute and their line remained intact.
The pressure finally told on 54 minutes, when the referee penalised Bangor on the edge of their 22 with Flanker Clegg yellow-carded. Holme landed the penalty to reduce the Bangor lead to 9-6.
A powerful Valley scrum against a seven man Bangor pack on 59 minutes seemed to serve notice that visitors would take advantage of their numerical superiority. But the Bangor pack disrupted the next Valley scrum and Clegg later returned without visitors adding to the score board.
With the match entering the final quarter Bangor continued to play a simple game of keeping the ball in the Valley half of the pitch as the visitors tried to get some momentum with ball in hand. This was to cost Valley as poor handling and enforced infringements were to give Bangor the advantage. A penalty on 68 minutes saw a Valley player yellow-carded.
The last 10 minutes saw frantic efforts by Valley to get back into the Bangor half to no avail. With the clock ticking down, a missed penalty by Bangor was the last meaningful play of the match and the homesters were more comfortable winners than the 9-6 scoreline suggests.
All in all a disappointing performance from Valley who will look to bounce back in their crunch top of the table league match against Instonians next Saturday. A reminder also that the Clogher Valley club shop will be open next Saturday from 10am-5pm.
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