Match report - Ards v Lurgan
By STEPHEN NUTT
Ards win feisty affair in the wind & rain at Hamilton Park.
Ards RFC 1st XV welcomed Lurgan RFC 1st XV to Hamilton Park on Saturday in the Kukri Ulster Championship 2 League.
In the forwards, Jonny McCartney was handed his first 1st XV start at prop and Robert Hull returned from injury to take a place in the 2nd row, covering the absent Ross Torney.
After a few weeks of changes, the reliable back row combo of Ryan Thompson, Onisi Burekama and Graeme Taylor resumed.
The backs saw something of a reshuffle, with Mark Banford and David Armstrong taking the centre partnership.
The reverse fixture at Lurgan took place in heavy wind and rain that dictated a slow moving encounter with few scoring opportunities, as Ards took a narrow victory. Unfortunately, the Rugby Gods handed us similar conditions again, with a gale blowing towards the lough on the clubhouse side.
Winning the toss, Ards took the advantage of these conditions.
From the beginning, it was clear the visitors pack were taking a robust approach at the breakdown and a feisty pattern of interchanges between the two packs was set early and continued throughout.
Despite the conditions, both teams tried to play running rugby and put width on their games, but handling errors were inevitable. Frequent scrums were very much to Ards benefit, as the home eight produced an excellent display, pushing Lurgan off the ball with ease and earning penalties.
However, in an opening period of even exchanges, it was Lurgan who opened the scoring with a penalty in front of the posts at the end of the first quarter for a 0-3 lead.
With the temperature rising amongst the forwards, the referee was soon forced to issue a team yellow to each side following another breakdown in discipline and this seemed to spur Ards to seek the lead.
The Ards back row were in fine form in the carry as the upper hand was now being gained. A series of scrum penalties took Ards closer to the Lurgan line and from 10 metres, No8 Taylor took a quick tap and forced his way over for a 5-3 lead. The conversion from Cox was adjudged just wide by the referee, despite the confirmation from both linesmen.
Following the half time break, Ards resumed and took greater control of the match. Fighting for territory and continuity against the elements made for a more disciplined approach and patience.
The home team delivered on this front, as the visitors discipline fell away. Ards used their 1st phase dominance to move through their phases and by the end of the third quarter, were happily taking a series of scrum penalties in the Lurgan 22, until the referee’s patience ran out and a penalty try was awarded for a 12-3 lead.
The final quarter was now well set, with both teams working hard for an advantage. Unfortunately for the visitors, they found it difficult to contain their enthusiasm at times and found a total of 3 yellow cards in the second half would be their downfall.
Despite the conditions, they earned a sole penalty opportunity with 10 minutes remaining, pegging the score back to 12-6.
In reality, Ards remained in control throughout with a more disciplined and structured performance, suited to the conditions on the day.
Our thanks to the visitors for another tough match and the referee. The day also saw the last appearance of our talented young scrum half Alex Hendrickse, before he heads away for a new career. His influence over the last couple of seasons cannot be underestimated – Good Luck Hendo!