Coleraine 2XV stormed into the semi-finals of the Crawford Cup with an eight-try demolition of Bangor 2XV at Sandel Lodge.
Bangor were high flying in Junior 3 and after having just beaten the Coleraine 3XV last week, turned up with a large, physical team sensing the possibility of an upset.
But as the game panned out, the difference in two leagues was evident and the dazzling skills of the Coleraine back division were again the backbone of a fantastic win to continue the quest for a Ravenhill trophy.
Playing with the wind and down the gentle slope, Coleraine put immediate pressure on the visitors, setting up camp within their ’22. It wasn’t long before the first try came when Alan Gourley finished well in the corner, after Coleraine took advantage of an overlap in numbers down the left wing.
Alan missed the conversion, but it was to be his only blemish on a superb performance with boot and ball in hand. The next try was taken by Alex Gourley, who took a great line off a pop pass from fly half Chris Gowland.
Bangor then exerted a bit of pressure and found some territory and possession in the Coleraine half, in particular using their massive Fijian prop, who left a number of Coleraine players battered and bruised. But the Coleraine defence stood firm and they scored again after a mix up in the Bangor defence ended with the ball in the hands of winger Stevie Callaghan who out-paced the covering defence, running in from half-way.
Try number four came with Bangor getting turned over at the breakdown, then the ball was quickly spread wide and Gowland trotted in from 40 yards out. To finish the half, Alan Gourley scored his second try, taking a great line after the Coleraine backs executed a superb first phase play to push Coleraine out to a 33-0 lead.
The second half started rather much as the first had left off, with Coleraine scoring within five minutes. This time Bangor attempted to clear their lines and booted the ball down the park to be cleanly caught by Gareth McCollum. McCollum produced a sublime pass to Callaghan who ripped through the non-existent Bangor defense, before off-loading to supporting full back Paul Shiels.
Next over the try line was prop Alan Stirling who burrowed over from short range after some strong forward play. Bangor started to run everything from everywhere, but the Coleraine tackling was solid, with centre John McClelland leading the way by smashing a few Bangor players into the turf.
The final try was set up after more twinkle-toes work from Alan Gourley who yet again broke the Bangor line, and this time Shiels was loitering in the vicinity of the try line to take the pass and claim the score. Bangor had the final score when one of their second rows flew down the wing and the fullback kicked a good conversion to reward them for their contribution to a good-spirited match.
One of the best performances from Coleraine Twos this season, and it was great to see good club support out watching from the sidelines. They maintained good discipline throughout the game and dominated in all aspects from start to finish.
Well done to Bangor who played with good commitment and kept playing to the final whistle. The semi-final is pencilled in for St Patrick’s day as an away trip to face Omagh 2s, so all to play for.
Next week it is back to league action for Coleraine 2s with plenty of pride to play for in a local derby at Ballymoney.
Coleraine 2XV: P Shiels, S Callaghan, R Naea, J McClelland, Alan Gourley, C Gowland, S Caithness, A Stirling, S Evans, A Neven, R Gibson, G McCollum, H Tate, Alex Gourley, R Caskey.