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1st xv - Match centre

Lisburn
Ards RFC - Ulster Championship 2
Sat 24 Mar 14:30 - League Full time

Ards fail to put Lisburn away

Penalties cost Ards the win as they outscore Lisburn 4 tries to 2

Lisburn 27 v Ards 1sts 27

Ards RFC 1st XV travelled to Lisburn RFC on Saturday for their latest fixture in the Kukri Championship League. The team saw a number of changes both in personnel and position. Josh McFarland and Paddy Bond replaced the absent Ross Torney and John Dowey for the forwards and the injured Matthew Neill was replaced by Stewart Paul in the backs, with a reshuffle to accommodate.

Ards started the game well and with only a few minutes played, flanker Onisi Burekama made an excellent break, fending off a number of defenders in a 40 metre run. The support was there and after recycling through a few phases, the ball was spread to winger Paul Cox to score out wide; Cox’s difficult conversion was wide. Lisburn 0 v Ards 5

However, shortly after a pattern started to emerge at the breakdown and Ards conceded 3 kickable penalties in 10 minutes to see themselves 9-5 in arrears.

At the same time, the inexperienced referee was clearly struggling to interpret the scrum and was penalising the vastly dominant Ards scrum to the amazement of the onlookers. Despite the Lisburn front row wheeling and popping up under pressure, their scrum half throwing the ball one handed into the second row and their back row breaking early, Ards found themselves penalised continuously.

Dragging themselves back into the game, Ards made good inroads despite the officiating and managed to string a good set of phases together by the half hour mark. Clever support by flanker McFarland saw him collect the final pass to dot down under the posts. The easy conversion was taken by Cox and Ards regained the lead at 9-12.

The scrum interpretation continued to frustrate Ards and another kickable penalty was given to the home team as the half was closing, duly taken, the scores were levelled at 12-12.

Further good work by Ards saw a penalty won and with the last kick of the half, Cox slotted a difficult opportunity to leave Ards 12-15 in front.

Ards knew they would have to create as much as possible to help themselves in the second period and set out with good intent. A good team move saw the pack work through a series of pick and drive moves and No8 Graeme Taylor touched down out wide, the difficult conversion by Cox was good and the lead extended to 12-22.

Lisburn then produced a good patch of running rugby as they sought to expand their style and their excellent centre, ex-Ards player Epi Ratu, made a number of bullocking runs in his usual style that were hard to contain. One such move saw the ball moved behind the Ards defence and with the visitors’ tackling not up to standard one time too many, the home team earned a good try to pull the score back to 17-22.

As the final quarter was closing and the incorrect scrum interpretations continued, the penalty count against Ards was rising. One of these was kickable and the Ards lead reduced again to 20-22.

In pushing for scores, Lisburn were also falling foul of the referee’s whistle at the breakdown and a series of penalties were giving the visitors good territory and chances to work the ball through the backline. Cox continued to threaten out wide and eventually took a great line from halfway that was impossible to stop and a fine score was taken. The touchline conversion by Cox was close, but wide and Ards moved their lead out to 20-27 with 15 minutes remaining.

Searching for the extra score to close out the game, Ards continued to press and found the home team in equally determined mood, with their aforementioned centre, prop and flanker playing some excellent and determined rugby in response. With 7 minutes remaining and from an innocuous field position, the Ards midfield defence were found wanting and the Lisburn backline sailed through unopposed. Despite some last ditch defence, the home team took a score under the posts and with the simple conversion, drew the score back to 27-27.

The remainder of the match saw each team push hard for a winning score, culminating in a penalty chance for Ards near half way. With time up, the decision was taken to kick for goal, but Cox’s sterling effort was just short into the wind.

Despite scoring 4 tries to 2 and holding the lead for most of the game, Ards had to accept a bonus point draw. Whilst the home side were keenly chasing the points required to ensure they avoided relegation, Ards will feel somewhat disappointed in the manner that the game was officiated and that in spite of that, they were unable to find that bit extra to take all the points on offer.

This Saturday sees the visit of Ballymoney RFC to Hamilton Park for the penultimate home game of the season.

Quilter Kids First Champions winner – November: Hinckley RFC

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