Belfast Telegraph

Club tackles Italy's finest to win a place in history, if not the game

By Dave Whelan

Players at Bangor Rugby Club were left shaking in their boots recently after they accidentally lined up against one of the top teams in Italy.

In a pre-season tour the club travelled to play what they believed to be a Benetton Rugby Treviso development squad, only to run out against a full strength team – including full internationals.

Club first team captain Jamie Clegg said there was a mixture of terror and delight amongst the players when they realised what they were up against.

The captain actually had some inside information after a tour guide with the team translated an article in the local paper about the match.

Thinking there was some sort of a mistake, Jamie and the club president decided not tell the rest of the team in case he alarmed them.

He said: "When it was translated to us and we seen some of the players mentioned we got a bit of a scare.

"There was only a select few of us that knew and we decided to keep it that way to try and keep the nerves down just in case what we were reading was true and we had a few safety concerns.

"We've just gained promotion in the junior leagues and I think there must have been some wires crossed and Treviso expected to be playing a team that had gained promotion to the top tier.

"When we got there the crowd were already filtering in to the huge stadium and we decided to just run with it. We have a good pack here and the guys never gave up, no matter how tough it got."

Jamie explained: "I took the guys down past the main stand where the 2,500 fans were and we got a terrific reception. And every time we did something positive in the game the Italian fans got right behind us and cheered us on loudly.

"After the game we had a beer with their team and a sing song because in those circumstances it didn't feel like a defeat – and especially not at that margin."

The North Down team, made up of players from their first, second and third teams, were winding up a week-long tour, having already beaten teams from Milan and Rome.

Used to playing against teams of calibre like Ulster and others in the Heineken Cup, Treviso ran out comfortable 92-3 winners – but not before Bangor caused a scare. Opening the game, the north Down club managed to get the first score, kicking over for three points but unfortunately it was to be their last as the Italians used the game to warm up for their upcoming game against Ospreys.

Bangor Rugby Club's Roger Corbett said the team had done themselves and the town proud – despite the scoreline.

He added: "The lads had already played and won two games in quick succession, coupled with the 30 degree heat it was always going to be a difficult game whoever we played.

"After the initial shock the team really lifted themselves and it was wonderful to see them get on the scoreboard first.

"It was going to be a great experience to play against a Treviso team at any level but to line up against their strongest team was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of our players.

"What better way to prepare for the coming season than to test your skills against players at the top of their game."

Bangor will play in QL1 this season having gained promotion from QL2 .

Belfast Telegraph


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