Lockhart basks in derby success
Donaghadee 22 Bangor 19: Saturday saw the highly-anticipated return of the north Down derby to the junior rugby fixture list as Donaghadee endeavoured to edge a thrilling spectacle that proved more than befitting of the occasion.
After Bangor's promotion to Qualifying 1 last season, this weekend's fixture represented the first league contest between the pair for five seasons and ensured a raucous crowd descended on Donaldson Park.
The noise levels were raised further as the game developed, with the home side holding the upper hand for lengthy periods, but Bangor rallied to ensure a tense finish.
A late try from Bangor captain Jamie Clegg brought his side within three points, but their attempts to complete an unlikely comeback were rebuffed.
Victorious captain Alistair Lockhart was elated by the triumph, especially given the nature of the occasion, and commented: "It just means so much to everyone connected to the club and the town to get a win in this game.
"Bangor are the kind of side who just never let up and we knew at half-time that they would give it a real go after the break and it was squeaky bum time at the end.
"We had a bit of belief about ourselves though, and with the crowd being our 16th man, we managed to see it out."
With the opening exchanges proving typically punishing, the referee was forced to speak to both captains after just 10 minutes when tempers flared after Dee's Paul McKenzie and Chris Hamilton combined to force a turnover.
The penalty count continued to escalate and after missing from a similar position just one minute prior, Nigel Barker gave the home side a 3-0 lead after Bangor were pinged for not releasing.
An infraction in a ruck allowed Barker to double that advantage just four minutes later, before Bangor got the game's first try after 25 minutes.
The visiting back three had endured a testing afternoon early on, frequently targeted by Donaghadee with booming kicks into the 22, but it was full-back David Charles who displayed good hands to eventually control Jason Morgan's pass and put wing Michael Widdowson over the line.
Despite a further missed penalty from Barker after two Bangor players were caught offside, the lead would change again before half-time when Jack Cooke was carried over by a menacing Donaghadee rolling maul.
After the turn, Donaghadee continued to control proceedings and gained further reward for their efforts less than ten minutes after the restart.
The score came when Paul Blewitt's ambitious grubber kick bounced into the in-goal area and former Ulster and Exeter player Paul McKenzie won the race to the ball.
Barker could not add the extras but was successful with a penalty 10 minutes later to give Donaghadee a 12-point lead after Bangor's Jake Harrison had been shown a yellow card.
That deficit remained until the 73rd minute when Bangor's pack began to come to the fore and, after they mauled their way over the line, it was prop Phil Whyte who emerged.
Despite that try cutting the lead to seven points, Barker appeared to have sealed the win when, despite a mixed day with the boot, he nailed his most testing kick of the day when it mattered most and gave his side a two-score advantage.
Bangor still refused to accept defeat however, and when their pack once again manufactured a score, Jamie Clegg this time finishing the move, there was just enough time for to restart.
With the home crowd beginning to wonder if their side were soon to suffer a similar defeat to that inflicted upon Ireland by New Zealand last month, their worries would prove unfounded when a Bangor forward pass ended the game to spark mass jubilation.