Clogher Valley 29 Bangor 15

Clogher Valley had a tough encounter against Bangor at the Cran in the AIL, but eventually came away with a bonus point win.

The Valley hosted Bangor at home in the AIL in what people thought would be one of the easier matches of the campaign; but it was not to be.

Bangor were out of the blocks much faster than the hosts, with some fantastic interaction between forwards and backs. They looked much sharper and much more organised as a side than the team Valley had played two months ago.

It was the visitors who dominated play, possession and had most of the territory in the first half.

It was also the visitors who were on the score sheet first, with a fantastic cross field kick to the winger to score in the corner after six minutes.

This was followed 10 minutes later with a penalty in front of the posts to give the visitors an 8-0 lead.

Paul Armstrong replied at the 25-minute point with a penalty to pull the deficit back to five points.

Taine Haire was soon to reduce that deficit to zero. Tommi Coulter secured the lineout, the ball was spread out the backs, Ewan Haire came into the line and made that extra person, just enough to create the gap for brother Taine to get some space.

Space is all this player needs, he went past his marker and outsprinted the Bangor full back to score in the corner. Paul Armstrong added the conversion and the hosts led 10-8, very much against the run of play.

The half time team talk from Coach Stephen Bothwell had an impact, with a different side on the pitch in the second half.

They were much more aggressive, quicker to the break down and were missing less tackles.

A Valley penalty in the Bangor 22 was awarded and the home side opted for a scrum. The hosts drove, Calum Smyton broke from the base of the scrum and after several recycles, Aaron Dunwoody spotted a gap to squeeze in for the Valley’s second try. Paul Armstrong added the conversion, and the large crowd could relax a little with the home side leading by nine points.

It was again Clogher who was to score next, with the forwards softening up the midfield, then setting the backs off when spaces were found.

It was Karl Bothwell who sprinted in the final 30 metres, cutting back inside and through two tacklers to score.

The hosts extended their lead 22-8.

Bangor did not give up, they continued to pound the Valley defence, eventually crossing the line for a converted try to bring the score back to 22-15.

For periods the visitors kept up the pressure, but resolute defence kept Bangor away from the Valley try line.

With five minutes to go, the Valley made their way down the pitch.

Matthew Bothwell broke and popped to Armstrong, several passes later Bothwell was on hand to nip in to score the fourth Valley try. Armstrong added the conversion and the score looked more comfortable at 29-15.

That was the end of the scoring, and the home side added a further five league points to their tally for the season, with six wins from six, all with bonus points.

This was a different Bangor side to that which the Valley played in September. With a performance of that quality, this side should not be sitting at the bottom of the league.

The Valley keeps marching on; four points ahead of second place Galwegians, who they play in two weeks’ time.

Player of the match was awarded to Calum Smyton, who was electric off the back of the scrum, made considerable metres every time he had the ball and was extremely reliable in defence.

The team take a well-earned rest next week before the long drive to Galway.

Next up in the Valley Women who play Lurgan away on Friday night at 8pm, then the 2nd XV take on Banbridge at home of Saturday afternoon.