Bangor's late heroics eliminate Enniscorthy
Bangor 14 Enniscorthy 10
A late try from Bangor's Mark Widdowson sealed both a 14-10 win over Enniscorthy and his side's progression to the All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals on a memorable Saturday at Upritchard Park.
Enniscorthy, the competition's holders, were leading 10-7 at half-time and held that advantage into the closing minutes before Widdowson beat several men and scampered to dot down.
The County Wexford side had put paid to the hopes of CIYMS, Portadown and Clogher Valley in last season's competition while they beat the men from Chambers Park again this year.
They finally fell to an Ulster side over the weekend, however, as Bangor's determination carried them to the victory.
The win was just part of a red letter day for junior rugby in the province as in the other quarter-finals, CIYMS managed an away win at Coolemine while Clogher Valley ran out comfortable winners over Connemara at the Cran.
After winning a contest where they had ceded possession for long spells, player/coach Jason Morgan praised the resolute nature of his side's display.
"We were on the back foot for a while but it was good character from the boys not to concede," said the Kiwi number 10.
"The league may not be going as we planned but that was the result of three or four years of hard work.
"We made hard work of it but we got there in the end.
"I thought we were dominant at times. The scrum was good but the lineout was a bit shaky. Fair play to Enniscorthy but I think we came away as deserved winners.
"We came into the competition saying we would take it one game at a time, treat each one as a final, and see how far we can go.
"That's what we did."
The game was still in its infancy when Bangor fullback Adam McGregor claimed a high ball with authority and sent a booming kick deep into the opposing 22. His opposite number, Ross Barbour, sliced a response into touch and gave the Bangor pack a lineout in a promising position.
They duly delivered and the subsequent rolling maul saw captain Jamie Clegg driven over to open the scoring.
Widdowson knocked over the conversion impressively and Bangor led 7-0.
When the winger was tackled high minutes later, however, his penalty attempt drifted wide to the right.
The champions came back into the game and duly dominated the remaining half an hour of the half.
Persistent team infringements saw James Henly sent to the sin bin and it was only a succession of dropped passes that stopped the visitors achieving parity.
When Enniscorthy did get their first points of the day, they came in somewhat contentious circumstances.
Scrum-half Ricky Armstrong had his kick charged down and, when the ball bounced into the arms of Declan O'Brien who had not retreated, the lock was left to touch down. Despite Bangor protestations, the referee awarded the try.
After Ivan Poole missed the conversion, it appeared that a mixture of Enniscorthy profligacy and Bangor fortitude would see the hosts through to the interval.
However, as the break approached, Enniscorthy had a scrum in the opposing half from which to launch an attack.
Scrum-half Evan Lett's pass was poor and bounced between the legs of the intended first receiver. The ball found its way to winger Ivan Jacob and he was able to weave his way over for a try. Poole was again errant off the tee and so Enniscorthy had to settle for a half-time lead of 10-7.
The second half was a tense affair. Bangor started to exert an increasing pressure as the game wore on and, with Enniscorthy forced to infringe with regularity, try-scorer Poole was shown a yellow card inside the final 10 minutes.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, they appeared set to hold on before Widdowson's last minute dash for the line.
Converting his own score ensured Enniscorthy required a try to win and there were nervous moments with the clock in the red.
Minutes passed before a stray pass was intercepted and booted into touch to spark jubilation among the Bangor players and supporters.