Encouraging performance against Dromore
With a strong pre-season program completed, Ards 1st XV set themselves a challenging opening friendly against Championship 1 side Dromore RFC.
Ards 1sts 7 v Dromore 12:
With a strong pre-season program completed, Ards 1st XV set themselves a challenging opening friendly against Championship 1 side Dromore RFC. With both squads at near full strength and Dromore arriving equally well prepared, it would be a good indicator of what progress had been made by the home side and what they could expect to bring to the start of their season.
The Ards front five had a familiar feel to last season, but the back row saw the welcome return of Danny Patton from a season of injury alongside the speed and agility of his partners, Regent House leaver Josh McFarland and Pete Croan. With Paul Cox and Jamie Lemon sidelined with injuries, new recruit Matthew Neill, the returning Mark McLean and Regent House leaver Alex Hendrickse brought dynamism to a new look backline.
Dromore started the brighter of the two sides, but Ards soon found their feet and settled into an even contest. No rustiness was apparent from either side, with each displaying robust organised defences and an ability to retain possession and string together high phase counts and patterns of attack.
The visitors took the opening score midway through the first half, with a series of short carries by their big ball carriers eventually finding a mismatch and with some excellent offloads, a score under the posts for a converted try. Dromore continued to threaten to cut loose, moving their point of attack well and offloading at every opportunity. At the same time, Ards also continued to threaten, with combinations of good interplay in the pack and wide ball through the backs. Wing Mark McLean was unlucky not to outpace his opposite number before industrious Ards second row Gareth McBurney pressed in defence and intercepted in the Dromore centre channel to run from the visitors 10 metre line and take the full back over the line with him for a try, duly converted.
The second half provided another excellent display from both sides in both attack and defence, with Pete Croan's line out work and Danny Patton's hard tackling worthy of mention alongside Alex Hendrickse's nose for a gap that punished the slightest defensive error and tortured the Dromore backline. Only scrambling Dromore defence and a slight delay in support at crucial times prevented Ards from adding to their tally. As it was, Dromore were to have the final say after their centre finished a fine move from a scrum in the Ards 22, to leave the final score at 7-12.
Plenty for the Ards players and supporters to be proud of, with the hard work of the coaching team of John West, Scott Young and Paddy McGrattanstarting to bear fruit. With a strong win for the Ards 2nd XV on Saturday against BHSFP RFC 1sts and many more candidates available this week, competition at training for selection for the visit of Banbridge RFC this coming Saturday will be tough.