Match report: Ards 1sts v Larne 1sts
Larne do League double over Ards
Ards 1st XV hosted Larne RFC 1st XV in their latest Kukri Ulster Championship League game on Saturday. The away fixture earlier in the season was a contentious affair, ending in a single point victory for Larne with the last kick of the game.
Ards fielded one change in the forwards, with Pete Croan returning from injury in the second row. There were a raft of changes in the backline due to unavailability, Alex Hendrickse returned from injury to play his first game since December at scrum half, partnering Paul Cox at half back, Adam Faloon and Adam Coulter were added to the wings, John Dowey took a place on the bench alongside Ryan Thompson.
The recent rest in the weather has seen the Hamilton Park pitch stabilise in the days leading up to the game, but the heavy rain that fell from early morning swiftly led to its deterioration and it was only some late sterling efforts by volunteers that let is be passed fit by the referee.
Unfortunately, the ground conditions and heavy rain were to play much more of a part in how the game played out than the efforts of either team. As can be the case in such circumstances, the course of the game was dictated by involuntary handling errors and an inability to introduce tempo or continuity.
Despite the regular stoppages from the start, both teams seemed keen to press their case and gain what advantage was possible. However, the contest deteriorated into a turgid, mistake led battle for inches rather than yards.
As the first quarter was drawing to an inglorious close, Ards tried to run the ball in their half and conceded a line out. Having won the throw in, a messy maul saw 2 Larne players slip free and run up the touchline to open the scoring. The conversion missed into the wind, the visitors took the lead at 0-5.
The remainder of the first half was quite forgettable as each team tried to outdo each others’ error counts. Whenever Ards gained ground, their line out misfired and their patterns were slow and inaccurate. Larne were happy to revert to type and play a close game that yielded little traction.
The second half reopened in a similar manner and again as the quarter was ending, Larne found their only attacking move of note as their fly half ran through the home midfield on a great angle and kicked through for the chasing winger. Although he missed the grounding by some way and Ards winger Adam Faloon touched down after, the large splash created in the attempt was enough to convince the unsighted referee to award the score. The conversion was cleverly taken into a fair cross wind and the visitors extended their lead to 0-12.
A few minutes later, Ards were retreating and conceded a kickable penalty. This again, well taken and the score moved out to 0-15.
The prospects of regaining the lead now were slim for Ards, with a quarter left and the playing conditions woeful. However, they did force themselves into a continuous attack using short carries through the forwards. Although Andrew Foster was held up over the line and several 5 metre scrums awarded, it was some time before Matthew Kane was able to take the try their efforts deserved. The conversion good from Cox, the score was pulled back to 7-15.
Despite pressing to create something, Ards were unable to add to this score as the error count continued to mount for both teams and the match ended with only Ards second home defeat this season.