Header2014 IRFC

1st XV have tough win 40-17 at Bangor RFC in the league


Photos of match 

On Saturday 25 March 2023 Instonians travelled to Bangor looking to maintain their unbeaten run at the top of AIL 2C. The packed pre match lunch was superb as was the hospitality all day from Tony Heffernan the Bangor President and his team. It was great to see British Lion Dick Milliken and ex Ulster coach Alan Solomons to witness the great rivalry reignited between these two clubs who have produced so many Ulster, Ireland and British Lions players over the years.

It was clear that Bangor were not there to make up the numbers and the previous match at Shaws Bridge early in the season had been a very close encounter with Instonians prevailing 26-20. An upset today and Bangor would be right back in the race for the play offs where they had gone so close to gaining promotion last season.

In a month when RBAI had won the Schools Cup and Medallion Shield that very strong link between RBAI and Instonians was evident with 11 of the starting 15 for Instonians being ex RBAI. Just as significant this week however for Instonians was the Des O’Donnell Youth Cup with 80 kids from 6 traditionally non rugby playing schools as part of the Club’s Community Outreach Programme. This continues to tap into the momentum in Irish Rugby on the back of the recent Grand Slam.

14:30 – Bangor kicked off in brilliant sunshine and very little wind, perfect for running rugby. There was a sizable crowd for this Ulster derby although maybe not quite the size of those for the Bass Boston Cup meetings of the past.

14.34 – Bangor 0 – Instonians 5

Instonians immediately showed their intent to keep ball in hand and use all 15 of their players as they went through their phases and showed great patience and control to look after the ball. Bangor for their part were up for this contest and held firm in defence.

The early pressure was beginning to tell however and from a penalty at the breakdown Instonians kicked for touch 10 metres out on the left hand side of the pitch. Instonians impressive driving maul moved towards the line and when Bangor did well to slow down the drive Instonians moved it right with willing runners before scrum half Rhys O’Donnell almost nipped in to score. He was stopped just short of the line but presented the ball perfectly for the supporting Robert Whitten and there was no stopping him as he dived over to score. Jonathon Milliken will have been disappointed to miss the conversion.

14.39 – Bangor 3 – Instonians 5

Bangor came straight back at Instonians and showed that they were keen to keep the ball alive too and test the Instonians defence. It was nip and tuck at this stage but when Bangor got the penalty at the breakdown this time just inside the Instonians half in centre field they chose to go for the posts . A fine kick from talented out half Gareth Millar reduced the deficit to just 2 points.

Then came a key moment in the match when the Bangor hooker tackled the impressive Instonians no 8 Andrew McGrath but in completing the tackle fell foul of the laws in returning the player to the ground. Immediately the Instonians physio came on to take care of the player and after a lengthy wait the good news was that Andrew gave a thumbs up as he left the field not to return. The Bangor hooker then received his red card and Bangor had now an uphill task with a man down and an hour still to play.

14.55 – Bangor 3 – Instonians 12

To their credit the Bangor heads did not drop and they defended well when they had to and then ran at Instonians when they got the chance. Instonians continued to look threatening but after several good passages of play they lost the ball forward in the tackle on a couple of occasions.

Then came a great score from Instonians from their own half with Matthew Keane speeding up the touchline before passing to his support and then taking a perfect inside pass from his cousin Daniel Keane to glide round under the posts and give Jonathon Milliken an easy conversion.

Instonians were now exerting pressure in the scrums and from a srum penalty on the Bangor 10 metre line Matthew Keane found touch just inside the Bangor 22 and the impressive Instonians driving maul marched towards the Bangor line. Bangor held on though and Instonians lost the ball forward and Bangor cleared their lines.

Instonians attacked again but a great Bangor counter ruck helped them to clear their lines again. There was no let up from Instonians though and a great break by the impressive Mark Mairs almost saw a try but the final pass from Daniel Keane to his cousin Matthew just did not go to hand.

15.10 – Bangor 3 – Instonians 19

Just when Bangor thought they had weathered the storm and got through to half time and a chance to regroup Instonians struck. This time it was Matthew Kilpatrick, playing at outside centre today instead of wing, who made the telling break and with Rhys O’Donnell running a great line in support to take the pass close to the try line and then an exquisite no look pass behind his back from Rhys to take out the last defender right on the try line gave hooker Neil Saulters the chance to saunter in under the posts for his 19th try of this AIL league campaign and his 2nd from open play.

HALF TIME –Bangor 3 -Instonians 19

Bangor will have been very disappointed to concede that late try in the 1st half as they had competed well after going down to 14 men after 20 minutes. Instonians for their part will have been reasonably happy with their 1st half display but maybe a little frustrated at losing the ball in contact on a few occasions. With the weather still perfect and the ground bathed in perfect sunshine , they will have known that another half with the extra man should see them with a great opportunity to get the 4th try which would give them the bonus point and also go a long way to securing the win too.

15.18 – Bangor 3 – Instonians 26

Instonians did not have long to wait with a wonderful try that was started by right wing Zak Davidson who ran back into his own 22 to recover a probing Bangor kick and instead of taking the easy option and kicking to touch Zak broke out of defence and fed out half Ruari O’Farrell who had run a great support line. Ruari had support from inside centre Daniel Keane and with the move now deep into the Bangor 22 it was prop Schalk Van Der Werwe who was on hand to dive over for a great counter attacking score that gave Instonians their 4th try and bonus point and put them in a pretty much unassailable position in the match.

15.30 – Bangor 3 – Instonians 33

Instonians were now dominant in the scrums and a series of scrum penalties followed. They were intent on keeping the ball alive however and play the open and expansive game that has been so good to watch over the last few months.

Then following several passages of play there was a ruck on the Bangor 22 on Instonians right hand side of the pitch and the trade mark show and go from scrum half Rhys O’Donnell saw him send the whole Bangor defence one way as he sailed in the other way to canter in under the posts giving Jonathon Milliken an easy conversion.

15.39 – Bangor 10 – Instonians 33

It would have easy for Bangor to throw the towel in being 30 points behind on the scoreboard and still 30 minutes to go but that isn’t in their DNA and they took the game back to Instonians with an impressive passage of play. After several passages of play the impressive no 13 went over to finish off a great team score.

15.43– Bangor 10 – Instonians 40

It was great to see coach Richard McCarthy come off the bench and seamlessly slot into the 10 shirt, His awareness and soft hands allowed the backline to flow in the exact same way Ruari O’Farrell had as Ruari moved into the outside backs for the remainder of the game. A sweeping backline move from deep saw Zak Davidson go over under the posts with Jonathon Milliken adding the extras.

15.47– Bangor 17 – Instonians 40

Bangor were not finished however and produced the try of the match in response. It started in their own half and good hands and great support runners saw then take play right up to the Instonian line where their no 20 got over in the far left hand corner and a superb touchline conversion from Gareth Millar followed.

When Instonians attacked again from the restart the Bangor no 20 blotted his copybook a bit with a yellow card for a deliberate knock and minutes later the full time whistle sounded.

FULL TIME –Bangor 17 -Instonians 40

So another bonus point win from Instonians to make it 16 from 16 and 2 to play. They will be happy with that and look forward to a 1st v 2nd match at home to in-form Skerries next week.

This was a very good game of rugby and Bangor played their full part. The play offs might be a step too far for the this season but it would be no surprise to see then challenging for promotion next season which would be good for Ulster.

As to the MOM Rhys O’Donnell was an obvious contender but the award this week is shared between 2 forwards one ex RBAI and one not to shadow the make up of this side. The whole back row was excellent today (and we wish Andrew McGrath well in his recovery) but Max Preston gets the nod as the ex RBAI player while the whole front row was excellent too but it is Schalk Van Der Merwe who shares the award for an all-round performance that embraces the open game this team is playing.

Thanks to the referee for allowing the game to flow and making it the spectacle of open running rugby it was.

So next up is in form Skerries coming to Shaws Bridge next Saturday 1 April in what has the makings of one of the games of the season. One game at a time remains the mantra , see you all at Shaws Bridge.