Match report - Lisburn v Ards 1sts
By STEPHEN NUTT
Ards get back to wining ways at Lisburn!
Ards 1sts made the short journey to Lisburn on Saturday for their latest round in the Kukri Ulster Championship 2 League. In the forwards, Matthew Kane returned to front row duties and Ryan Thompson was restored to the back row, with Paddy Bond and Adam McKee moving to the bench. In the backs, Mark Banford returned after several weeks' absence to fly half.
The previous week had seen defeat to a strong Academy RFC side and although the quality of that opposition was not in doubt, Ards' own performance was below par and a good week's training saw them focused on reversing that.
Lisburn's own fortunes have not been good for the season to date, but they remain a physical and committed team no matter what the circumstances. Despite the weather earlier in the week, conditions were near perfect and the playing surface in good shape.
A minutes silence of Remembrance before kick off was observed impeccably.
The game started at a strong tempo with both sides looking to create momentum. Lisburn attacked hard with their ball carriers running close hard lines and their centres looking for line breaks. Ards managed to absorb Lisburns initial forays well and set an early standard for a strong defensive performance.
Ards' desire to play with the ball in hand and use their creative back line was clear from the start. A good attacking set down the right after 5 minutes was just forced and broke down.
Not soon after, another chance was created from some hard carrying from Graeme Taylor and Onisi Burekama in the pack. Moving the ball from the left, centre Jamie Cardwell combined well with wing Paul Cox and full back Aaron May to move the ball in and out and find second row Danny Patton on a great tracking line inside to open the scoring. The kick from Paul Cox was just wide and Ards' account was opened at 0-5.
The hard work put in by the forwards in training was paying dividends in the scrum and lineout, with Ards driving Lisburn off the ball in the set piece and better organised at the throw in.
In the loose, Lisburn's pack remained physical at the breakdown and it took robust work from Tom Donnan, Danny Patton and Ryan Thompson in particular to provide clean ball.
In open play, Taylor and Burekama were handing out defensive duties with equal gusto as the home side's forwards worked hard to gain a foothold. The home side's backline was clearly limited in options to their combative centres and the Ards backs were as equally frugal in their own defensive endeavours.
Continuously working the ball and gaining some penalty calls from their first phase advantage, Ards used the forwards well in exchange with their backline with Taylor and Ross Torney carrying hard and as the first quarter was closing, a good series of phases saw fly half Banford draw his opposite number and release Cardwell in a great switch line.
Just held up short, the ball was quickly recycled and props Kane and skipper Andrew Foster drove over together with Foster getting the touch down. Well converted by Cox, the lead was pushed out to 0-12.
Seeing their momentum in full flow, Ards pressed their heavy territorial advantage forward in the face of a resolute Lisburn defence, moving the ball wide through Cardwell and David Armstrong in the centres and bringing May and wing Trevor Devlin into play as width was sought where possible in their play.
As the half was starting to close out, these efforts earned further penalties, used to gain field advantage and line out possession. Taking a line out in the Lisburn red zone, the Ards pack drove hard and Burekama and Thompson broke through the middle, with Thompson grounding for an excellent score. The conversion from Cox was good again and the lead pushed out to 0-19.
As the half was closing, Lisburn had a good period of possession and Ards defence, with one eye on the half time break, was split by a hard carry from the Lisburn No8, who broke the line well and scored. The conversion wide, the half time whistle sounded and the score at 5-19.
Ards started the second half well and Banford continued to work well with Cardwell and Armstrong to bring their hungry back three into attacking lines. The Ards forwards showed continuing thirst for work in both attack and defence as both units complemented each other and combined well to produce opportunities.
Taking play into the Lisburn 22, duties were handed to the forwards and after a number of short carries, hooker Donnan found a weak spot in the line and drove over for the bonus point try. The conversion from Cox was good again and the lead extended to 5-26.
With 30 minutes left to play, Ards were threatening to cut loose, but the home side were resilient and continued to press through their tough centres and their determined forwards.
As the third quarter was closing, an attempted Lisburn backline move from deep was well read by Armstrong, who pressed in the outside centre channel to steal a great intercept and run in from half way for Ards' fifth try. The conversion from Cox was true and the lead taken out to 5-33.
Lisburn were in no mood to capitulate and pressed on themselves in the final quarter, throwing all they had in an effort to reduce the scoreline. Ards, though, found their defensive zenith and put in a disciplined and physical display to repel the home side's not inconsiderable efforts. Continuously frustrated, they were taken back over the gain line too often and could gain little traction as the clock ran down and Ards took a welcome and well deserved win