Match report Ards 1sts v Portadown
Towns Cup run ends for Ards
Ards RFC 1st XV travelled to Portadown RFC on Saturday for the Quarter Final fixture in the River Rock Towns Cup. To have made it this far in this premier competition speaks volumes for the progress Ards have made this season.
Portadown, like most other remaining teams in the competition, play in the league above Ards and have hit a good patch of form with a number of former All Ireland League players recruited during the season.
Ards made one change in the pack, with John Dowey promoted from the replacements bench in exchange with Gareth McBurney. The backline saw the return of Mark Banford in the full back berth with Scott Young returning to Fly Half.
The visitors made a good start, matching Portadown well and having a slight advantage in early exchanges. Both defences were sharp and aggressive as expected and both forward packs well up for the challenge.
Having made good inroads, Ards were in a defensive set approaching their 22 metre line, when a loose pass out wide was easily intercepted by wing Paul Cox, who ran the length of the pitch to register the opening score. His own conversion was good and Ards took the lead at 0-7 after 10 minutes.
Ards continued to press well and although the home team had possession too, their passing was poor and they were struggling to string phases together. As the half hour mark approached, Portadown hit a patch of good form and with their back row carrying well, an overlap found their second row on a good line to burst through and touch down. The conversion good, the scores were now level at 7-7.
With play centralised, the first of a number of bizarre refereeing decisions saw a tap penalty taken behind the referee and 10 metres away from the offence. After one good pass, there was a clear forward pass and Portadown raced through out wide to take the lead at 12-7 on the stroke of half time.
Ards took to their task well in the second half and mounting a strong attack with an overlap to hand, found themselves halted on the Portadown 10 metre line. Although the ball carrier was clearly in field and in line with the touch judge, the referee called him in touch. Portadown moved play to the other touchline and from the line out, Ards flanker Onisi Burekama was dubiously judged to have taken out a Portadown player in the air and received a yellow card. This proved to be a turning point in the match, with 2 tries and a conversion in his absence and the lead pushed out to 24-7.
In a game of fine margins, the absence of Ards openside flanker for 10 minutes was to prove their undoing. They continued to chase the game manfully once the numbers were rebalanced and the physicality of the contest continued unabated with little to chose between the sides. This took its toll with the untimely retirement of centre David Armstrong with a nasty hip injury and tempers boiled over on both sides as each tried to exert dominance.
Still chasing to the end, Ards pressed too hard and in the final play, Portadown ran through to take a converted try and the win at 31-7.
Not a scoreline that truly reflected the closeness of the game in many aspects. Ards now have 5 league games left, the aim a top 4 finish and this begins this Saturday at home to Ballymoney, with Ards hoping to repeat their good win against this opposition earlier in February.