Ards lose to strong Academy team
By STEPHEN NUTT
Academy gain revenge on Ards at Hamilton Park for last season's heavy defeat.
Ards RFC 1st XV saw the visit of Academy RFC 1st XV to Hamilton Park on Saturday for the latest round in the Ulster Kukri Championship League Division 2.
The visitors have made an impressive start, having made a number of strong additions to their squad in the off season. Ards kept their same backline, but promoted Adam McKee to start in the second row, with Davy Calvert making his return on the bench.
In the absence of Matty Kane, Paddy Bond moved from flanker to prop for the day.
Once again, the day fell victim to some extreme weather, with a strong swirling wind and heavy rain present that would very much dictate the style of play and opportunities in general.
The visitors sought to impose themselves on the game early on, using their substantial pack to good effect. Despite their efforts, what the Ards defence could not handle, the conditions certainly did and a turgid stop-start game came into effect from early on.
Academy, likely have the best forward pack in this league and used the regular restarts to good effect, turning the screw on Ards in both scrum and line out.
Despite the changes in personnel, it is a long time since the home side were so effectively dominated in 1st phase. Although the Ards backline appeared more organised, what little ball they saw was difficult to move effectively and at pace in the conditions.
The first quarter saw 2 kickable penalty opportunities for Academy and although the first was missed, the second was goaled well in what was not an easy day from the tee for either side.
Despite the disparity in possession, Ards’ defence remained stout and timely handling errors enabled their exit from more challenging positions.
Enjoying a brief measure of territory, a penalty chance was earned from some hard carrying from the pack on the half hour mark and goaled by Paul Cox to bring the scores level at 3-3.
Using the Garryowen well, Academy gained some hard fought territory of their own. Ards managed to turn the ball over in their own 22, but the clearing kick was short into the wind and the visitors found themselves with a ready made 4 on 2 attack out to the right. Making no mistake, they took the first try of the match on the stroke of half time for a 3-8 lead.
As the weather deteriorated further, the second half was a constant battle of tactical kicking and 1st phase restarts and with Academy's scrum having a clear advantage and their weighty forwards using the ball close in, 2 further tries were gradually walked in during the 3rd and 4th quarters for a final score to them of 3-20.
Not a great day for the home side, who failed to gel and a victory well deserved for the visitors, who were worth every point. Ards will look to train hard this week and take a more cohesive game on the road to Lisburn RFC next week.