Slick Bangor power to historic treble joy with Enniskillen win
Bangor 31 - Enniskillen 25
Bangor secured an historic junior treble at Kingspan Stadium yesterday after adding the Powerade Towns Cup to their Qualifying One and Junior Cup titles.
More than 1,000 spectators witnessed the north Down side overcome Enniskillen at the home of Ulster Rugby.
Having led 19-0 at half-time, Bangor had seemed virtually home and dry but the underdogs from Fermanagh mounted a strong fightback to run in three scores after the break.
After a nervier-than-expected finish, player-coach Jason Morgan was thrilled to bag a third trophy of the season.
"At the end of the season, we can look back and reflect on it," he said. "This year, with a few additions to the squad, it's all come together.
"Full credit to Enniskillen though, another ten minutes and that could have been different."
With the round-robin to decide the final two places in next season's All-Ireland League to begin on Saturday - Bangor host Westpoint in the first round - Morgan is already looking forward to the attempt to re-establish his side as a senior club just a few seasons on from languishing in Qualifying Two.
"We know the All-Ireland League may not be around much longer but we want to get our place in there," he said.
A penalty for Bangor seemed set to provide the first points of the day, only for Neil Cuthbertson's effort to come back off the post, but the near miss would work in the north Down side's favour.
Alan Wilkinson was on his toes to catch the rebounding ball but Enniskillen's clearing kick was returned with interest into the corner.
When the Fermanagh men couldn't gather the subsequent line-out, flanker David Bradford was on hand to scoop up and roll over the line.
This time, Cuthbertson's radar was more finely tuned and the wing nailed the conversion five metres from the touchline for a 7-0 lead.
While the pace of scrum-half Jason Guthrie and Mark Widdowson, a late inclusion at fullback after injury to Ross McCloskey, was causing constant problems, Enniskillen found themselves in a promising position after 25 minutes with a line-out in the opposition 22.
The set-piece was turned over, however, and Bangor immediately looked to counter from deep through Widdowson.
The full-back's prod to the corner produced a footrace with his opposite number Ashley Finlay doing enough to see the ball into touch.
Enniskillen's work from touch was errant again, however.
Bangor's pack were held up over the line after the turnover but a five metre scrum would produce the second try when David Caughey broke off the base to touch down.
With half-time looming, Bangor were in for a third time, a quickly recycled ball giving Morgan the opportunity to dart over from close range.
With Cuthbertson adding the conversion, it was a 19-0 lead at the interval.
Just as in the first-half Bangor were penalised in the opening 60 seconds after the restart, this time Lendrum on target to reduce the deficit.
The second-half looked to be following the same pattern though, the first try for Bangor after the turn coming ten minutes in.
More inspired play from Guthrie created space with a delightful offload setting Bradford into the clear, the flanker then drop kicking the conversion for good measure.
Moments later Enniskillen struck back with exciting interplay from Ashley Finlay and Steve Neil putting James Ferguson over to spark the pulsating finish. A penalty from Lendrum minutes later would make it a two-score game with a quarter remaining.
Bangor kept their composure and got what turned into the winning try when Morgan spun the ball to Widdowson and he stepped inside for the score.
Another try from Ferguson, plus one from Mattie Maguire, set up the frantic finale but a key turnover from Darren Kelly ensured the win.
Bangor: Ross McCloskey; Neil Cuthbertson, Jason Morgan, Mike Weir, Desi Fusco; Gareth Millar, Jason Guthrie; Michael Ferguson, Conor McEvoy, Phil Whyte; Darren Kelly, Craig Burton; Mike Aspley, David Bradford, Jamie Clegg (capt). Replacements: Orran McIlmurray, James Leary, David Caughey, Curtis Stewart, Robert Gamble.
Enniskillen: Ashley Finlay; James Ferguson, Mattie Maguire, Alan Wilkinson (capt), Steve Neil; Adam Lendrum, Nick Finlay; Gavin Warrington, Ryan Cathcart, Steven Fox; Kaine Holden, David Buchanan, Jamie Johnston, Richard Johnston, Richard Lee. Replacements: Gareth Beatty, Stephen Welsh, Michael Cadden, Jack Harte, Zach Charlton.