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1st xv - Match centre

Ards RFC - Ulster Championship 2
Sat 20 Jan 14:30 - League Full time

Ards run riot at PSNI!

No amount of riot training could've prepared the PSNI for how Ards played on Saturday!

Match reports:
PSNI 1sts 0 v Ards 1sts 71

Ards RFC 1st XV travelled to Newforge in Belfast on Saturday for a Kukri Ulster Championship League match against PSNI RFC, looking for 5 wins in a row. The team was unchanged from the previous week's home league win against Limavady RFC.

The Newforge pitch was in excellent shape as usual, ideally suiting Ards' free flowing style and a welcome change from the recent state of the grounds at Hamilton Park due to the weather. A bright day with no wind made for near perfect conditions.

The match kicked off and after the initial exchanges Ards were soon into their stride, dominant in 1st phase, watertight in defence and moving the ball wide with purpose. With 5 minutes gone, centre Trevor Devlin was on the end of a good passing move following some excellent carries by the pack and Ards took the lead at 0-5.

A similar set of phases were built and after 10 minutes it was the turn of second row Gareth McBurney to complete a move and round to score. The conversion from full back Paul Cox was good and with it a 0-12 lead.

Working the ball well into strong defence from PSNI, Ards eventually created a 3 on 1 overlap out wide on the left for second row Ross Torney to complete a great team try and take the lead to 0-17 on the quarter mark.

Ards were now playing with good rhythm and tempo, with the forwards carrying well in patterns and providing the backs with great ball to move wide. With only another 5 minutes on the clock, one such move released wing Matty Neill for a long run in for a great try. The conversion from Cox was good and the 4 try bonus point earned early on at 0-24.

PSNI then started to guard their possession tightly, with pick and go moves and short passes in an attempt to hold back the tide. Ards were happy to rely on their defence, which was well disciplined throughout. However, discipline going forward was not as tight and some profligate finishing let 4 clear chances fall away in their finish in the final quarter for a half time score of 0-24.

With a reality check delivered in the half time circle by the coaching team, Ards were back on track in the second half, running patterns, executing with precision and defending with vigour. After dealing with a brief resurgence from PSNI and settling into play, there followed a 30 minute masterclass in game control and execution across the entire team, delivering 7 tries.

If a forward could not gain enough traction to break through, out went the ball for the backs to work with. Firstly No8 Graeme Taylor finished a great team move to take the score to 0-31 with Cox's conversion, shortly after which some slick handling in the backline saw Devlin burst through for another score, converted by Cox for a 0-38 lead.

An excellent overlap created on the left saw flawless lines and passing from Mark Banford and David Armstrong to release Cox and leave the PSNI defence flat footed as he ran in for the score and then converted from the touchline for a 0-45 scoreline.

Next up was the forwards interlinking with the backs and some slick handling saw Captain Andrew Foster run in under the posts. The conversion from Cox good again and a 0-52 lead.

As the pack continued to batter PSNI up the middle, the backline moved with pace to create another overlap for Cox to run in again out wide and with another excellent touchline conversion the score moved to 0-59.

Still, the pack continued to keep their standards high and their tempo strong, the PSNI scrum all but destroyed and their defence unable to cope with the onslaught. Good ball was created to offer Devlin a chance on the PSNI 22 and he sidestepped 3 defenders in a dazzling finish under the posts for his hat-trick. Cox's conversion was good for 0-66.

Driving themselves to finish strongly, the Ards forwards were relentless and physical, still soaking up PSNI defenders to create opportunities for the backline and with the clock almost run down, a carbon copy overlap on the left again saw Cox run in for his hat-trick and a score of 0-71.

Shortly after the restart the final whistle went with Ards battling for another try and a final score of 0-71 with 11 tries scored.

All credit to and our thanks to PSNI who worked tirelessly and honestly throughout. 
As Ards continue their climb, they face a great challenge at home next week against the unbeaten league leaders Grosvenor RFC.

Back in December, Ards were unlucky to lose 18-19 in the away fixture, the closest that any team has got to them this season. However, Ards are unbeaten at home this season too and playing great rugby, so a cracking fixture is in prospect.

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