Battling Bangor flying high
CIYMS 13 Bangor 15: There was late drama at Belmont on Saturday afternoon as a last-gasp Bangor try saw the north Down side defeat CIYMS and move one step closer to securing an All-Ireland Junior Cup place for next season.
A rescheduled fixture after an earlier postponement, this was the week's only game in Kukri Qualifying 1 so both teams had an opportunity to make headway in the standings.
The victory lifts Bangor above Dromore into third place, while CIYMS are crucially left just outside the top four, albeit with a game in hand.
Speaking after the victory, hooker Andrew Jackson hailed the fortitude displayed by his side.
He said: "We're really pleased because we've lost a few tight ones this season so it's great to show some character and be on the other side of it.
"Credit to C.I because they were really up for it and played really well. They stuck at it and got the lead but we're ecstatic that we were able get the late score.
"It was a big decision to not go for the line-out but thankfully a few of us were able to latch onto the ball carrier and luckily we got over.
"It's a big time in the season for us, the top four is our target and we'd love to go on a cup run. We have Ballynahinch IIs in the next round so that will be a tough game and there's some big ones in the league coming up.
"We're getting better game by game, especially at running our patterns, and I really think that we're on the right track."
With a strong, occasionally ferocious wind behind them, Bangor made use of the conditions in the early stages and took the lead through a Neil Cuthbertson penalty after just two minutes.
The winger failed to double that total with a kick from just inside his own half five minutes later but the visitors would not have to wait long for their next score.
As the first quarter neared its conclusion, Mark Widdowson stepped inside the despairing lunge of C.I full-back Matt McGuigan and released David Charles (right) who ran through to score.
Cuthbertson added the extras to put Bangor into a 10-point lead.
C.I's tackling was found wanting again 10 minutes later when Bangor's midfield pairing of Glenn Irwin and Michael Aspley combined to cross the whitewash, but the referee ruled it out due to a forward pass in the build-up.
After the interval, as C.I stormed back with 13 unanswered points, the contest appeared to be living up to the old football cliché about a game of two halves.
First, McGuigan, left footed from the left touchline, got his side off the mark with a penalty before they levelled the game after 57 minutes.
Centre Andy Hodgen's forceful run had them inside the 22 before the ball went loose, going forward off a Bangor hand. It was smartly prodded forward by the boot of Stuart Ferguson and Michael McComb finished off the opportunistic score.
Stephen Foster kicked the conversion to leave both sides on 10 points but the score came at a cost for C.I, who saw Ferguson forced off with a knee injury sustained just prior to the try.
Despite the loss of their captain, the home side still took the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining through another impressive penalty from McCormick.
That score looked to have given the east Belfast side a vital win in the race for a top four spot but with two minutes left on the clock, Bangor charged upfield.
When awarded penalties deep inside the opposition 22, they opted for a series of tap and goes rather than kicking for corner and their decision was vindicated when prop Phil Whyte barged his way over the line with the help of his forward colleagues.
The missed conversion gave C.I the opportunity to win the game with a penalty or drop goal but Bangor's determination saw them home.