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Jackson treble sinks Bangor

By Jonathan Bradley

Portadown advanced to the quarter-finals of the Junior Cup after beating Bangor at Upritchard Park for a second time this season.

Last season's Qualifying 1 champions won at the home of the newly-promoted side in the first week of the campaign but it seemed as if the hosts would gain a measure of revenge for that defeat when they raced into an early 10-0 lead.

But, Richard Hedley's side responded with a six-try blitz during the final 50 minutes, including a hat-trick for right wing Nicky Jackson.

Team captain Jonny Holden, playing at out-half in the absence of usual stand-off David Whitten, hailed the resilience displayed by his side at a tough venue for any visiting team.

Speaking after the win, he reflected: "It's not a place you look forward coming to, especially with a few players missing, but the boys dug in to get a win.

"There was a 15-minute spell there in the second-half when we got a few quick tries and Bangor's heads went down a bit for a while and even when they got one back we hung on.

"The guys have great character and we've shown that again today just like we did for the first game of the season when we took the points in the league.

"We're just excited to see who we get in the next round and hopefully we can have a good run in the competition."

Neil Cuthbertson kicked an early penalty to give the home side the lead and Curtis Stewart added a converted try before the game had entered its second quarter.

The score came from a hugely effective rolling maul by Bangor and the unfamiliar sight of a Portadown pack being out-muscled, plus the 10-point deficit, seemed to indicate that Rupert Preston's men were on their way to a significant victory.

It was not to be however and the experienced scrum-half Barry Gribben reduced the arrears after half an hour when he quickly gathered at a breakdown close to the Bangor line. With the home defence anticipating a break to the blindside, he darted to his left to touch down unopposed near the posts.

And the Ports took the lead five minutes before the interval when the decision of the referee to play the advantage granted Wayne Kelly the freedom to attempt a high-risk cross kick that was well gathered by full-back Ryan Calvert for the score.

Gribben was successful with a testing conversion to leave the score 14-10 at half-time.

Portadown made the tie safe with a trio of converted tries within 20 minutes of the restart, an onslaught that began with another score from Jackson.

Kelly was involved once again as he provided the telling pass to release the wing after his forwards had previously held on to the ball for several phases.

Jackson completed his hat-trick 10 minutes later, this time after strong work from Thomas Halliday, and then a strong solo effort from flanker Gary Hall moved the visitors into a 25-point lead. From the restart, Bangor managed a response when an impressive take from captain Jamie Clegg saw him power into the opposing 22 and send Cuthbertson clear for a super score.

The wing converted his own try with an excellent kick but Gribben added a penalty from distance shortly after.

Despite the considerable lead, Portadown were still defending with determination and will have been disappointed to see opposing full-back David Charles cross the line late on.

It was fitting, however, that the game would end on a positive note for the County Armagh side and the final action before the full-time whistle saw Halliday break away to score the try his performance warranted.

Portadown will now form part of a strong Qualifying One representation in the next round.

Clogher Valley, Coleraine, Donaghadee and Ballymoney also won their ties over the weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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