Match report - Banbridge 2nds v Ards 1sts
By STEPHEN NUTT
Away day win for youthful Ards side!
Ards RFC 1st XV travelled to Banbridge RFC on Saturday to play the Senior club’s 2nd XV in their second consecutive Ulster Conference League fixture. Once again, the coaching team took the opportunity to make some changes to the team, putting out one of the youngest forward packs seen for Ards at this level, with 6 of the 8 aged between 20 and 23. Coupled with the backline, over half of the starting team on the day were of this young profile, reflecting the hard work done at the club in retaining a combination of recent Regent House leavers and players from the club’s successful Youth system.
Playing on the main pitch, Banbridge had enjoyed some success in this league so far and boasted a young side with a large contingent of recent Ulster under age representatives. Thankfully, the rain held off, but there was a strong wind which the home side elected to use for the first period. Ards had had a good preparation and started the stronger, with good patterns from the forwards and the backline keen to seek gaps with straight running lines. Despite having the upper hand early on, Banbridge found territory easy to gain, with their experienced out half kicking well with the wind. Securing a turnover after 10 minutes, they ran in the opening score through their fast winger and took a 5-0 lead.
Undeterred, Ards pressed in the same manner and before long, centre Trevor Devlin took an excellent line break from half way and drawing the full back, passed to the supporting David Armstrong to level the scores. The conversion from Devlin was good and the lead taken at 5-7 for Ards.
Working hard through the pack, with Graeme Taylor and Jonny Harris prominent in the carry, the ball was worked into the Bann 22 on the restart. A series of heavy carries saw skipper Andrew Foster break through a couple of defenders for a fine score. The conversion unsuccessful from Devlin, but the lead was extended to 5-12.
The game then evened out for a period, with the home side’s quality obvious and Ards defence worked hard to win turnovers, with Ryan Thompson, Danny Patton and Tom Donnan putting in their usual high work rate at the breakdown. Ards fly half Mark Banford was keen to bring his centres and wings into the game where he could and full back Aaron May delighted the onlookers with his exceptional footwork and mazy running. As it was, it was the speed and power of the forwards that eventually broke the home side’s resolve. First prop Matty Kane made great inroads, before second row Jonny Harris finished a well worked move on the left as the pace of this young pack worked well in tandem with the backline. The conversion again difficult into the wind, the score was extended to 5-17, where it remained until half time.
The second half saw Banbridge up their game and provide a far stiffer challenge in the pack and introduce a strong running inside centre. Ards, however, continuously challenged the Bann defence, with multiple line breaks and completion of some good set moves. Thankfully, Ards held the wind advantage and found clearing their lines a far easier task, with some good kick chasing from wing Michael Taylor. However, when the line had to be held, Ards were not found wanting and their defence was physical and uncompromising against a determined home side. This frustration eventually boiled over as the home winger lashed out in front of the referee and received a red card for his troubles.
Taking the easy territory, Ards backline again were making line breaks and as the final quarter was well underway, centre Devlin got just rewards for his efforts as he took a great supporting line to run through a number of defenders and take a great score. Converting his own try, the lead pushed out again to 5-24.
Banbridge fought hard throughout the closing stages and with a couple of minutes remaining, found a gap to pounce for a converted try, just rewards for their attitude and hard work throughout as the match closed at 12-24 to Ards.
Next week sees the return of competitive rugby at Hamilton Park as high flying Randalstown are the visitors in the Kukri Ulster Championship League.
Due to some unusual fixture planning by Ulster Rugby, It has been 5 weeks since Ards’ last League encounter and they will be keen to resume where they left off and gain some traction in the League standings.