Job done at Hamilton Park
2017-18 season of to a winning start with an assured win over Lisburn.
Ards 1st XV welcomed Lisburn to Hamilton Park on Saturday in their opening Ulster Championship Division 2 League fixture of the season.
Although the Ards backline was unchanged, there were changes to the forward pack, with Tom-Arthur Donnan and Matthew Bell drafted in place of Pete Croan and Davy Calvert; Adam McKee and Graeme Taylor were added to the subs bench.
Lisburn were an interesting opposition, with a number of Fijiians, who were all former Ards players, it was great to see Epi, Gus, Kaz and Willie back for the day. Most had played with us at All Ireland League level in the past and were always tough and uncompromising players.
A good crowd was in attendance, despite the poor weather as the game started; so far this season, Ards have enjoyed fine weather and fast playing surfaces, both suiting their free running game and skilled backline. However, it was time to get down to business as traditional rugby weather returned and the more cautious dynamic of league fixtures came into play.
From the off, the home team worked at building their phases and gaining territory, but the soft ground, wind and rain were having none of it and after both sides found handling errors too easy to make, the game settled into a battle of small wins and hard hits.
Despite Ards having the lions share of possession in the first half, Lisburn were tough to break down and the home team were restricted to 2 penalties from the boot of Trevor Devlin for much of the first half.
A foray into the home half by Lisburn brought the score back to 6-3 with a penalty by their sharp out half, who led their good work and made a couple of dangerous breaks himself.
In all a poor return for the home team and a reflection of a tough league encounter. Taking the game forward, Ards eventually broke a resolute Lisburn defence, with Banford and Young getting over the gainline, Ross Torney took a straight line and nobody could stop the big second row from 10 metres out as he took 3 Lisburn defenders over the line with him to score, the conversion unsuccessful.
Half time: Ards 11 v Lisburn 3
As the second half started, both teams had a clear agenda. The home team needed a score to pull clear and the visitors needed a score to get back in contention and both teams set out to do so.
Lisburn introduced Epi and Gus on hard lines from deep, trying to breach the home defence, but found Graeme Taylor and Paul Hamilton leading the line as some big collisions were seen.
As the physicality increased, the visitors' discipline dropped and at least four high and dangerous contacts strangely went unpunished by the referee.
For all their effort, Lisburn managed one clear chance all half, which was quickly extinguished by some excellent backline defence.
As Lisburn pressed and the weather worsened, Ards were happy to trust their defence and see the game out, with the experienced Scott Young and Stewart Paul marshalling the team well. Reading a move well and spotting the opportunity, Paul intercepted in midfield and the supporting Young took the pass on the 22 and brushed off tackles to take a try well received by the support as much in relief as anything, converted by Devlin for an 18-3 lead.
Now having a clear lead, the home team were happy to close out the last 10 minutes and keep Lisburn deep in their own half. A late penalty attempt by Devlin was just wide and the final whistle brought a sense of satisfaction at a hard fought and well deserved opening league win. Job Done.
Final score: Ards 18 v Lisburn 3
Next week takes Ards 1sts to Larne to take on their formidable forward pack and Glynn's testing coastal weather conditions.