Ards secure first league win of the season!
By STEPHEN NUTT
Dominant Ards performance despite the weather
Ards 1sts visited Lurgan RFC on Saturday for their latest fixture in the Kukri Ulster Championship 2 League. In the backs, the non-availability of Mark Banford and Trevor Devlin saw the inclusion of Jamie Cardwell and Adam Faloon and a reshuffle of positions. In the forwards, a start was awarded to Ryan Thompson and Adam McKee was promoted to the bench, where he joined Sam McVeigh.
Lurgan were promoted last season from the 3rd division of the league as champions and had shown strong form at home so far this season. Their Pollock Park pitch was in near perfect form, but the weather on the day was in no form to accommodate, as heavy rain fell incessantly throughout.
From the start, it was clear the conditions would dictate the ebb and flow of the game. Despite the efforts of both sides to create and finish scoring opportunities, frequent handling errors and resultant technical offences led to a large number of first phase restarts. Given this, it was fortunate that the Ards’ scrum was in the ascendency throughout and the line out functioned better than the opposition’s.
Taking the upper hand in the opening exchanges, both in possession and territory, Ards were awarded a penalty from 40 metres with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Without hesitation, Paul Cox elected to kick and took the points easily to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Spurred on by this, Ards again took to the offensive. With conditions making for difficult handling in the backs against a defensively strong Lurgan midfield, it was left to the forwards to seek line breaks and these were provided in abundance by flanker Onisi Burekama and No8 Graeme Taylor.
As the half stuttered forward, Burekama made a number of deep incursions as he was at his rampaging best, but as was the case throughout, the poor conditions slowed continuity.
Although Lurgan did not visit the Ards 22 once, play was contained mostly in the middle third of the pitch and the half ended 3-0.
The half time break was a period for some good reflection. The Ards penalty count was low and discipline tight as they had finally found a good vein this season and stopped playing within themselves.
A mistake at the restart provided an insight of how the conditions would continue to dictate how this game would play out. Gaining some usable territory early on, Lurgan gained a penalty 30 metres out after 10 minutes and their full back, who kicked well all day, made no mistake in converting the chance and levelling the scores at 3-3.
However, this would be the last opportunity for an incursion close to the Ards red zone for the home side. Raising their game and working well between forwards and backs, Ards played their way up the field and as the third quarter was closing, earned a deep but kickable penalty. Cox again converted for a 6-3 lead.
Not to be outdone, Lurgan enjoyed a period of possession in midfield, but the Ards defence remained resolute and disciplined, forcing errors and then regaining territorial advantage themselves. For the remainder of the match, Ards spent virtually the entire time in the Lurgan half and an extended period close to their line. A series of scrums saw No8 Taylor held up over the line 3 times in a row as the home defence showed its mettle. As it was, the net earning was a penalty shot from out wide from Cox, which was just shy of the upright.
In the final 10 minutes, the home side were awarded a penalty on half way and attempted a levelling score, but their effort fell far short. Cleaning up the ball, Ards went through the phases for the closing period, content to keep possession and contain the game. They did so successfully and with time called in play, kicked the ball out to register their maiden league win of the season.
Much positivity will be taken from the day by the players and the coaching team, particularly after such a disappointing loss at home the week before.
Our thanks to Lurgan for their excellent hospitality and to the referee, who managed the game superbly in such poor conditions