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1st XV win tough encounter with Bangor 1st XV 26-20


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Rugby Home – The Front Row Union Sport

On Saturday 15 October 2022 Instonians welcomed Bangor to Shaws Bridge for this top of the table clash in AIL 2C with both teams having won their first 2 games. It was fantastic for these 2 clubs to reignite their traditional rivalry again with Instonians now having regained their senior status. The highlight of the pre match lunch was having a table of the RBAI Senior Rugby team. With RBAI recently celebrating 150 years of rugby at the school the link with the club remains strong with half of the Instonians 1st XV squad ex RBAI boys. Good news for Instonians was that 2 of them Rhys O’Donnell and Zak Davidson were returning from injury today. There was great anticipation amongst the large crowd as the teams took the field.

14:30 – Instonians kicked off in bright sunshine into the wind.

Bangor immediately showed their intent to use the wind with a fine high box kick from their 9 which was spilled by Instonians to give the 1st scrum of the day. This was an immediate test for Bangor against the strong Instonians scrum but they held firm. Both sides tried to move the ball but lost forward in the tackle. The 1st Instonian scrum earned them a scrum penalty on their 10 metre line and a kick for a line out on the Bangor 22 saw the Instonian driving maul come into play and with good forward ball there was slick transfer across the backline left and right across the pitch but Bangor’s defence held firm.

Instonians were now encamped in the Bangor half into the wind and were looking to move the ball at every opportunity with Bevan Prinsloo at inside centre today looking threatening. The first try did not look far way as Bangor were being forced to concede penalties and successive driving mauls took Instonians right up to the Bangor line but it was held up for a Bangor scrum and a chance to relieve the pressure. Instonians had other ideas however and attacked that scrum earning a penalty. They chose the scrum option and a slick transfer left had Bangor’s defence stretched but they scrambled and held out.

14.45 – Instonians 5 – Bangor 0

You sensed that the 1st try was not far away though and so it proved when Instonians had a controlled and patient driving maul from 10 metres out from the Bangor line. The only surprise was it was not Neil Saulters who was on the end of it but rather his front row partner Anton Lupari. Jonathan Milliken missed the conversion from wide on the left but Instonian had struck first into the wind.

Bangor continued to use the wind and kick for territory. They had a line out on the Instonian 22 metre line but they lost it and a great relieving kick from Instonian 9 Rhys O’Donnell took play back up to half way.

Instonians continued to move the ball quickly and test the Bangor defence and from another scrum penalty to Instonians they kicked to the Bangor 22 metre line and moved the ball wide left to stretch the Bangor defence but following good ground again by Bevan the ball was lost forward.

Bangor were still using the wind well and following another high box kick from the 9 they took a leaf out of Instonians book and got a good driving maul off the line out and then moved the ball right to under the posts but a great jackal from Alistair Burke saved the day for Instonians.

14.45 – Instonians 5 – Bangor 3

Bangor came again though and this time went through the phases forcing Instonians to concede a penalty in front of the posts on the 22 metre line. Bangor took the easy 3 points on offer to open their account.

For the next 20 minutes the pattern of play was Instonians lineout , driving maul and moving the ball wide against the wind while Bangor mixed their attack up more by using the wind with high box kicks or kicks for territory. With defences sound however both sides continued to lose the ball forward in the tackle.

15.09 – Instonians 5 – Bangor 10

Then out of the blue a fantastic break from the outstanding Bangor 6 from a ruck on the Instonian 10 metre line saw him almost reach the try line under the posts. Bangor however did recycle the ball and scored in the far right corner. A great conversion followed and Bangor looked like taking a half time lead.

15.11 – Instonians 12 – Bangor 10

Instonians had other ideas though and when they got a penalty on the Bangor 22 you knew what was coming and they kicked to the corner, won the line out 5 metres out and this time it was Neil Saulters at the back of the maul to claim his 6th try of the league campaign in just this the 3rd match. A great touchline conversion from Jonathan Milliken restored Instonians lead right on half time.

HALF TIME – Instonians 12 – Bangor 10

This had been a very evenly contested half but with Instonians turning round with the wind behind them they would have been the happier side at the break. Bangor, however, had already shown enough to suggest that this game was far from over.

Instonians continued to try to run the ball with just the occasional use of the boot.

Bangor got a penalty from a line out and back chat gained them another 10 metres and a line out on the Instonian 22. This gave them a good platform to put pressure on the Instonian line and a chance to regain the lead but a great jackal from Mark Mairs relieved the pressure for Instonians.

15.26 – Instonians 19 – Bangor 10

From an Instonian line out on their 10 metre line this time it went off the top and a great break upfield from Andrew McGrath which was then taken on by Schalk Van Der Merwe resulted in a penalty and a great kick from Ruari O’Farrell for a line out 10 metres from the Bangor line. The driving maul that followed looked to be setting Neil Saulters up for another try but Bangor managed to stop it just before the line so Andrew McGrath quickly kept the ball alive to avoid a goal line drop out. A few pick and goes brought play towards the posts and then quick thinking by Rhys O’Donnell to pass back left to his half back partner Ruari O’Farrell who in turn gave a perfect pass to Jack Elliott to score in the left hand corner. An excellent touch line conversion from Jonathan Milliken put Instonians more than 1 score ahead.

Bangor to their credit came straight back at Instonians and playing into the wind now they chose to keep ball in hand. Instonians defended well and then a tremendous break from his own 22 by Andrew McGrath up to the half way line and then a great offload to Matthew Kilpatrick who fed Ruari O’Farrell who in turn gave a delightful pass out the back of his hand to wing Zak Davidson on the right touchline. Zak was only stopped by a high tackle and a yellow card to the Bangor no 6.

15.33 – Instonians 26 – Bangor 10

Instonians immediately set to work looking to make the extra man count. They kicked to the Bangor 22 metre line and then from the resulting line out the driving maul forced another penalty and a line out 5 metres out from the Bangor line. No prizes for guessing the outcome and Neil Saulters got his 7th try of the league campaign and more importantly the bonus point try on the day. A great conversion followed from the touchline from Jonathan Milliken and on the balcony and along the touchline the large Instonian support thought that was that. Perhaps the players subconsciously thought that too.

Bangor had not read the script though and showed great character to come right back at Instonians and following a penalty and kick to the Instonian 22 metre line they used a driving maul to set up a platform to attack right and recycle the ball quickly to stretch the Instonian defence and only a great jackal by Paul Pritchard released the pressure for Instonians.

15.43 – Instonians 26 – Bangor 17

Instonians then had a huge scrum on the Bangor 10 metre line and the resulting penalty was kicked to 10 metres from the Bangor line. The driving maul went towards the line but it was near the touchline so Andrew McGrath fed Rhys O’Donnell who passed to Bevan Prinsloo at pace but great defence by Bangor stopped would have been the clinching try.

Bangor had the put in to the scrum 5 metres from their own line and the Instonian pack had by now the upper hand at scrum time so Bangor will have been delighted to be awarded the scrum penalty and kicked to their own 22 metre line for the lineout . They set up a ruck and out of nowhere a loose forward broke into open space, made it to half way to offload to the supporting flanker who broke up the right touchline and found support runners who completed one of the tries of the season.

15.49 – Instonians 26 – Bangor 20

More importantly in the context of this match it was game on!

Instonians seemed to realise that though and upped the temp and ran at Bangor. The backs moved the ball at pace with Ruari O’Farrell always looking for the opening and there were great forward surges in support from Andrew McGrath and Alistair Burke in particular and when defending was required a great thumping tackle from Harry Gallagher stopped Bangor in their tracks.

Instonians wanted that crucial score to take them 2 scores ahead and in all probability to safety but Bangor won an aerial duel on half way and then a kick to the Instonian 22 metre line gave them a platform to attack. Instonians stopped the Bangor driving maul in its tracks but Bangor moved the ball to their 12 and when he was tackled on the 22 metre line in front of the posts Instonians were penalised. Bangor took the points on offer and they now were back within 6 points. The nerves around the touchline and on the balcony were very real for the Instonian support while the Bangor travelling contingent were now looking for more than the losing bonus point they had just lined up.

This was now the crucial stage of the game with just 5 minutes on the clock. Instonians won a Bangor scrum against the head by pushing them off the ball and moved the ball right and then back left but Bangor defended well and got another scrum. This scrum went backwards also but they got the ball away from the base and attacked down the right and then recycled and went left. Instonians defended well initially but then a high tackle allowed Bangor to kick deep into the Instonian 22 for the line out. With the Bangor kicker in such good form you sensed that a score here and Bangor could come away with a victory. The driving maul was held up by Instonians however and they got the put in to the scrum

From the scrum 10 metres from his own line Alistair Burke broke blind right up the touchline and showed great pace to reach the Bangor 10 metre line but then his attempted over the head inside pass to supporting winger Zak Davidson was intercepted and from the resulting ruck Bangor kicked ahead and the Instonian full back Jonathan Milliken seemed to get a call that time was up and ran the ball into touch. It was fake news however and there was time for one last play with a Bangor line out 10 metres out from the Instonian 22 metre line. It was thrown over the top but Paul Pritchard was switched on and took the ball which was moved along the backline to Jonathan Milliken who this time found a good touch on the left hand side of the pitch as the ref did blow for full time.

FULL TIME – Instonians 26 – Bangor 20

This was a titanic tussle between these traditional rivals and whereas Bangor will feel they could have nicked it at the end, in the cold light of day they will be pleased with a losing bonus point away to the early pace setters. Instonians will know they can play better than this but also that Bangor get great credit for not allowing them to play. Instonians desire to run the ball at every opportunity make their games good to watch but perhaps better use of the wind in the second half might be something that comes up in the video analysis this week and the absence of a 50-22 for either side was surprising.

Very difficult to pick a MOM today. Bevan Prinsloo and Harry Gallagher were certainly in the frame but with the settled back row of Paul Pritchard , Alistair Burke and Mark Mairs being very good today again it goes to a man off the bench Andrew McGrath who had a great impact when he came on.

There is now a week’s break and then Instonians travel to our friends in Ballina on Saturday 29 October. One game at a time is the message and still plenty to improve on.

We wish Bangor well in their remaining matches and wouldn’t it be great if we were both still in the mix when we meet again in Bangor next March.