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Instonians 14-8 Bangor

By Jonathan Bradley

Instonians made it nine wins from nine to start the season as they advanced to the semi-finals of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup thanks to a 14-8 win over Bangor at Shaw's Bridge on Saturday.

First-half tries from Fraser Wright and Michael Melville had put the hosts 14-0 up after half an hour but Bangor came back with a penalty and a try, both through Mark Widdowson, but a final spell of possession in the closing minutes could not yield the required score.

Instonians will now face Enniskillen at home in the last four after the County Fermanagh side overcame Ballymena II 24-19.

Coupled with that result, Omagh ensured it was a memorable day for junior rugby in the west of the province when they dumped holders Ballynahinch II out of the competition thanks to an 18-13 win.

The Accies will battle with Ballyclare for a place in the final after the men from The Cloughan beat Belfast Harlequins II 21-15. The semi-finals will be played on Saturday, November 29.

Even with three other strong sides remaining in the competition, Instonians will be considered heavy favourites for the trophy but President Michael Hunter is not getting carried away.

He said: "I suppose we would be expected to go through just because we're at home and probably the highest ranked but every team in the last four is a good one.

"Enniskillen had a good win against Ballymena IIs so they'll be looking forward to the game."

On Saturday's victory, he added: "I'm told it was a difficult game to play in because of the weather and Shaw's Bridge can be very exposed to the wind. The fact that the scores came so early probably tells you all you need to know about how the weather went."

The contest began in wet conditions and Bangor were pinged for crossing shortly after the kick-off to give Instonians the opportunity to launch an attack.

The penalty was kicked to the corner and the line-out was well controlled by the pack.

A series of pick and goes kept Instonians in possession but, after the ball was recycled quickly, out-half Wright darted through a gap on the edge of the 22 and utilised some fleet-footed running to go over the line.

Wright converted his own try and the south Belfast side led 7-0 inside the first 10 minutes. With a quarter of an hour gone, the home side's Rory McCurry was shown a yellow card and, with a numerical advantage, Bangor attempted to force a score.

Despite enjoying some territory during the 10-minute spell, Bangor could not manufacture a try and the home side's defence held firm.

With half an hour gone, the Instonians forwards again came to the fore with some strong ball-carrying.

When the ball was released to the backs, inside centre Joe Fryers embarked on a strong run to draw the defence out of their line and he released a fine pass for Melville.

The wing still had plenty to do but his pace took him clear just to the right of the posts. Wright again added the extras and Instonians led 14-0.

Bangor came back and forced a penalty that Widdowson knocked over with ease to move the score to 14-3.

After the turn, Bangor began in the ascendancy and a five-metre scrum gave them a real opportunity to launch an attack.

After several forwards had driven towards the line, Bangor worked the ball across and some good interplay between the backs sent Widdowson over in the corner.

The following conversion attempt was unsuccessful and it left Bangor in need of a seven-pointer to take the lead in the tie.

Instonians tried to extend their advantage but Bangor remained resolute in the face of pressure and a drop goal attempt from Wright was off target.

It did not prove costly however as, despite some possession and territory towards the end of the contest, Bangor could not muster another score.

Belfast Telegraph

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