Match report: Grosvenor v Ards 02/12/17
Ards take league leaders the distance
Grosvenor 19 v Ards 1sts 18
Ards took the short trip to Gibson Park on Saturday to play League leaders Grosvenor RFC. The hosts were unbeaten so far this season, clocking up large scores with a strong game plan and an equally strong squad of players. This match represented a good benchmarking exercise for how Ards RFC have progressed this season under the coaching team.
The much changed team that travelled to Ballymena two weeks before reverted to a more familiar line up. The absence of second row Ross Torney was well covered by John Dowey and Paddy Bond started at prop, with Matthew Kane taking a replacement spot under rotation. Scott Young had recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury to keep his place at centre, whilst Adam Coulter took a wing berth with Matthew Neill being the other replacement.
The kick off from Grosvenor was short, giving Ards a good platform from a scrum in the middle of the pitch. From that, they quickly fell into their game. Grosvenor's defence was solid and it took a very low error count from the visitors to keep their momentum.
From early on, the scrum was a tough contest and for the first time this season, Ards found a pack able to match them and then some. The home team enjoyed good possession and showed why their season has been so successful to date, with some heavy ball carriers in their pack and a sharp and intelligent backline.
Exchanges of play in the middle third of the pitch were fairly even in the first quarter, that ended in a lineout for Ards just inside the home 22. With a clean take and a maul well set, the Ards pack drove with gusto to within 5 metres of the Grosvenor line and when the maul split, flanker Onisi Burekama broke to drive through 2 defenders and take the opening score; full back a Paul Cox was just wide with his conversion. Grosvenor 0 v Ards 5
Ards claimed the restart well through Dowey and full of confidence started to play their patterns and put some width on their game on the large firm pitch. A sweeping move out of the top drawer saw the ball moved at speed from the right touchline through the hands to winger Adam Coulter, who provided a quality finish out wide for an unconverted try. Grosvenor 0 v Ards 10.
With the restart well claimed again, Ards sought to build on their score and a clear 4 on 1 opportunity was earned on the outside, this broke down as the ball carrier lost his footing as he was giving the scoring pass. Building on this again and at the 30 minute mark, the Ards backline were moving the ball but a clever press by the Grosvenor centre saw him take an intercept and run through from half way for a converted score. Grosvenor 7 v Ards 10.
With the half time mark approaching, this handed some momentum to the home team and they started to take the majority of possession and advance. Ards were containing the home team well, until an excellent line from their centre was missed in midfield, which took him through for a deserved score and Grosvenor took the lead for the first time 14-10, at which it remained until half time.
Ards were somewhat non-plussed at the break. Despite having the lions share, they were down on the scoreboard, but knew it was still all to be played for.
Again, Ards started well and kept to their patterns with the pack working hard and progressing slowly against the resolute home defence. Soon a kickable penalty came and full back Cox was successful. Grosvenor 14 v Ards 13
Now putting width back into their game, Ards were testing the Grosvenor defence heavily and having gone from right to left, then moved the ball back again for winger Trevor Devlin to cut back in against a stretched defence to put Ards back in the lead, the conversion was missed. Grosvenor 14 v Ards 18
As before, this invigorated the home team and they sought to up their game with some measure of success. The collisions were unrelenting as both sides asked for and gave no quarter and Grosvenor started to take a marginal territorial advantage as their slick half backs and midfield worked the ball well.
On a couple of occasions Grosvenor created linebreaks and looked to be through, but the Ards backline covered well and made their tackles to deny them a score.
As it was, it was left for a clever ruck move from their back row that released their centres through the middle and although the scoring pass to the last man appeared forward, the referee was behind the direction of play and unable to call it as Grosvenor regained the lead with an unconverted try. Grosvenor 19 v Ards 18
With 10 minutes left it was still all to play for and the home team defended Ards’ efforts to advance ferociously. Territory was hard to gain as both teams were tiring, with both benches emptied and a couple of Grosvenor players needing treatment for cramp. Multiple phases brought Ards into the Grosvenor half, but time ran out and the final whistle sounded.
Many positives can be taken from this performance and both sides can consider themselves fortunate and unfortunate in equal measure with their results. What is certainly clear, is that after a mixed start to the season, Ards are now producing an exciting and committed brand of rugby.