The Senior Firsts went on the long bus journey North to Bangor full of anticipation looking down the barrel of four AIL matches on the trot. The need and want to get off to a good start was realised during the long trip as the lads settle down to mentally prepare for the battle they were about to face. Midleton were on the receiving end of a beating from Bangor six months previous in Towns Park. However, since then both sides have seen a number of changes in personnel, leading to a much different result in Upritchard Park.
The match was framed by glorious blue skies and a luscious green playing surface, ideal conditions for attacking rugby even with enough grip under foot to make the scrums a real contest.
The game started on a positive note for Midleton with Michael “Yorkie” Cronin and Jon Gardiner setting the tone earlier on; Yorkie with a storming carry straight into the bewildered defenders while Jon made his considerable presence felt by the Bangor outhalf.
The game was lively from the start, with both sides looking to move the ball and hit the wide channels, with both defences holding strong. A Midleton penalty put them into the home 22 yet Bangor were awarded a penalty from the maul, which then failed to find touch. following a number of phases Rob Smyths men found themselves with a scrum just inside the Bangor half. Yorkie had a strong carry off the back, giving Stuart Lee the chance to get his back line firing.
A number of phases and attacking plays later, the ball all Midleton’s, there was yet to be a score on the board. Bangor found themselves with a lineout just on their 22 metre line, however, a failure from Bangor to capitalise gifted Midleton a release
10 minutes in and another try opportunity to go ahead went squandered after a burstiing run from Rory Horgan who straightened up to go through the middle of the defence line only to be taken down 5 metres short. The ball was flashed wide only to be miss handled and landing in touch. The clearing kick from this lineouot landed neatly in Louie Farnhams waiting arms just outside the Bangor 22. He moved the ball quickly to Lee who fed Martijn with a fantastic pass. Martijn drew the defenders towards the touch line before popping the ball to an oncoming Dan Murray. Dan had the pace and guile to make his way over the line in the corner. Lee missed the conversion 0-5 only 10 minutes played.
Bangor made a strong run into Midleton half only to be turnover following some strong defence, and found themselves back on their own line. Strong runs from Martijn and Dave O’Sullivan adding considerable pressure to the home side. A penalty ensued which Lee slotted making it 0-8.
The next score of the game was to the homeside. The pressure was put on for a number of phases before they broke through a passive tackle, allowing a good offload to the support who crashed over. The kick was unsuccessful, 5-8.
Midleton retained possession from the restart, the Midleton pack again rising higher the rest of the field to bat the ball back into his team mates hands. Five phases later and the Yorkie split the defence like Moses did the Red Sea, weaving his way to the line, beating three and carrying two defenders with him to dot down for another five pointer. Lee stepped up to add the extras, 5-15. Shortly after however, Bangor had the chance to add their own three pointer following a high tackle. 8-15
The second half kicked off with the sun still shining but low down in the sky casting long shadows across the emerald grass. Strong carries from the returned kick off put Midleton just outside the 22, looking threatening with good runs coming from forwards and backs. Hands in the ruck led to a penalty which Lee converted giving us the all important first score of the half, 8-18.
Lee had his kicking boots on for the day with his out of hand pinning the home side back and the chase from outside backs Louie and Martijn causing havoc. Bangor could not seem to put the phases together and all credit to former captain and defensive coach Damien Smyth who has this Midleton team well drilled in their defensive efforts. The strong defence in every quarter of the pitch meant that the Bangor ten had to keep kicking to our back three who were gifted with space and the opportunity to turn on the afterburners.
Substitutes Brian Moore and Aaron Hogan put themselves about well, giving the travelling side the extra energy needed to get over the line again just 15 minutes into the half. A ruck penalty for not rolling away gave Midleton a lineout on the Bangor 22, easily won by the effective pack and expertly marshalled by Smyth at scrum half, the go forward ball was invaluable. It gave Lee the chance to unleash a threatening back line and two phases later we was over in the corner. Lee added the extras making it 8-25 and plenty of time left on the clock.
The kick off was knocked on by the Midleton pack, giving Banor a good platform to attack from in what was a solid scrum all day. They moved the ball from wing to wing to no avail as the defence held strong. A knock on came and gave Lee the chance to clear the lines. Another lengthy period of Bangor pressure ensued, which was again repelled by an aggressive and disciplined Midleton defence, resulting in another knockon and turnover. Bangor tanks were sapped after the number of phases they put together and gave Midleton an easy front foot from which to attack. A break from Louie down the narrow side, an offload to Dan and a second offload to Denis Broderick finished off a move that started just inside the Bangor ten metre line. Lee missed the extras, 8-30.
A number of phases after the kick off and Dan found himself intercepting a wayward pass inside his own half. He turned on the pace and tore away down the pitch, Louie Farnham and the Bangor back three in tow. A neat off load to Louie gave him another try to add to his tally or the season. Lee added the extras, 8-37, bringing his personal tally for the season so far to over 150 points.
Our next match is the rescheduled game against Bective Rangers, this Saturday 31st March with a 1:30pm kick off.