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No separating leaders after hard fought battle

By Ronnie Ingram

It was always going to be a closely fought battle between the Junior 2 joint leaders Malone III and Bangor and that's how it panned out as they drew 6-6 at Gibson Park.

The weather was fine for the first 25 minutes which offered the opportunity for some good rugby, but then there was a deluge and both teams reverted to a tighter game.

Malone took a six-point interval lead with penalties from Gareth Miller and Peter Tees while Bangor's second-half points were kicked by Neil Cuthbertson.

"It was mainly a forward battle, but we felt we could take the game to Malone although they had a big pack," commented Ryan Meake, the Bangor coach.

"As the game continued the underfoot conditions deteriorated. It was difficult for the kickers and there was virtually no flowing rugby. We started without three regular forwards - Dave Lynn, who had a hand injury, while Ian McBurney and Gareth Caughey were unavailable.

"It was always a tight encounter with plenty of mistakes due to the slippery ball, but we had faith in our defence which had only conceded 25 points in the first five games."

Meake, a former first-team player who had to retire from the game last Christmas following a serious leg injury, added: "I was pleased with a share of the points, although we had a couple of penalty opportunities which were missed.

"So far we have only played one game at home and five away and are still undefeated.

"Prop Peter Nicholl, flanker James Ferguson and second row Freddie Black all put in a lot of work to thwart their massive pack.

"We still have a lot to work to do, but assuming we don't suffer a lot of injuries it should be easier after Christmas with fewer away fixtures" he concluded.

Malone captain David Horan thought it was a fair result, with both teams and the referee adapting well to the terrible conditions.

Horan said: "We suffered an early injury when Gareth Baird had a hamstring problem so we brought on Davy Irvine, who had been out of action for six weeks and he lasted five minutes before his knee gave up again.

"It ended up that we had to play No. 8 Colin Davidson on the wing, but we managed to come through.

"Hooker Conor Kelly and second row Tim Knox were much in evidence and although 44-year-old Patrick Baird in the centre never had much ball to play with he defended resolutely.

"We kept our unbeaten run and look forward to the return game at Upritchard Park on January 2."

The other Junior 2 result was Clogher Valley II 37 Portadown II 0.

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