Match report - Ards 1sts v Banbridge 2nds
Solid win for Ards in season opener!
Ards 1sts 35 v Banbridge 2nds 7
Solid win for Ards in season opener:
Ards RFC welcomed Banbridge RFC 2nds in their opening competitive fixture of the 2017/18 Season. This game is part of the Conference League, that pits Championship clubs against the second teams of senior All Ireland League clubs.
Banbridge RFC were AIL 2 winners last season and have recruited heavily during the summer. Arriving with a number of last season's league winners, they were expected to provide a strong opposition.
Ards saw two forced changes from the previous week, with injured wing Mark McLean and holidaying second row Ross Torney replaced by Graeme Taylor and 1sts debutant Paul Hamilton; Paddy Bond and Stewart Paul were added as replacements.
Bann started brightly, testing the home defensive line, but received no return for their efforts as this feature of Ards' armoury continued to show its strength and improvement. Before long, the home side's playing patterns and phase building were rewarded with a penalty inside the visitors' 22, duly converted by Trevor Devlin. Ards 3 v Banbridge 0
Shortly after, this consistency in attack earned another penalty opportunity inside the Bann red zone and Devlin again delivered the points. Ards 6 v Banbridge 0
Ards were now gaining momentum in the set piece and crisp line outs were matched with pulverising scrums that had the visitors in speedy reverse. This dominance fed confidence to the backline who were running great lines and passing with speed and accuracy. Led by the guile and skill of player coach Scott Young, this week's backline decided to cut loose early on, having the first phase advantage afforded to them by the pack.
Every member of the Ards pack were putting in a measured and physical performance, with heavy defensive work from Tom Arthur Donnan, Hamilton and Danny Patton a feature alongside the carrying of Gareth McBurney, Matt Kane and Captain Andrew Foster and the link play and breakdown work of Pete Croan and Josh McFarland. Centres Young and Taylor combined with good lines from half way to release wing Adam Coulter, who used his trademark pace and power to outdo three defenders and score out wide in a superb move, Devlin converted well. Ards 13 v Banbridge 0
Receiving the restart, 2nd row McBurney took the ball forward hard and after a series of phases where the ball passed through every hand in the backline, Scott Young took a well judged line to cut through the Bann defence to score, duly converted by Devlin. Ards 20 v Banbridge 0
The Ards play was delighting the large support, whose good spirits and decibels carried them along. The home team's steady control led to another penalty opportunity, which Devlin slotted through the posts for a 23-0 half time lead.
The visitors were clearly stung by what they had faced in the first half, perhaps not expecting such an organised opposition. They quickly reverted to their style at the start of the first half, confirming their quality had not gone away. Despite repulsing a long series of well worked moves, Ards eventually conceded a converted try from close range. Ards 23 v Banbridge 7
Restarting, Ards soon imposed themselves, winning the restart and building phases using their attacking patterns with discipline. Every opportunity to move the ball wide, stretch the Bann defence and look for gaps was taken, with some wonderful work on display from the whole backline as well as the loose forwards.
Full back Matt Neill was finding himself increasingly involved from deep in such moves and rounded off one of many fine breaks to run in from out wide and round under the posts which was converted by Devlin. Ards 30 v Banbridge 0
With the visitors tiring and the home side's superior fitness starting to tell, the last quarter saw attacking possession almost entirely with Ards and against lesser opposition and with better execution at the breakdown, a larger score would have been accumulated.
As it was, it was left to scrum half Alex Hendrickse to have the final say, with a darting run around the edge of a ruck. Devlin's conversion was just wide, denying the Man of The Match a perfect 7 out of 7 in a selfless and disciplined performance, typical of the brand the coaching team are installing throughout the playing side of the club.
Final score: Ards 35 v Banbridge 7