Match report: Clogher v Ards
By STEPHEN NUTT
Onfield injuries take its toll on Ards
Clogher Valley 24 v Ards 3
Ards 1sts took the long road trip on Saturday to Fivemiletown to play Clogher Valley in the latest round of the Kukri Ulster Championship 2 League.
Ards travelled with a much changed team, with a number of injuries and non-availabilities. In the forwards, Paddy Bond was promoted from the bench and Ross Torney returned to the side. In the backs, Adam Curry made his 1st XV debut at scrum half and Taylor Nutt took the inside centre berth, David Chivers covered the bench slot.
Clogher Valley won a 3 point game at Ards earlier in the season in the closing stages and have since seen the return of a number of club stalwarts, propelling them to the top of the table.
The game commenced with a swirling wind and the looming threat of snow as the CV centre burst through the Ards line in his own half. Although taken down by Ards full back Aaron May, he fed an overlap wisely and CV opened the scoring with the clock barely started. The conversion was wide and a 5-0 lead taken by the home team.
Woken from this, Ards took to the contest well and enjoyed good periods of phase building, with strong carries in the forwards and clever distribution in the backs. Before long, a kickable penalty was earned and Paul Cox pinned the score back to 5-3.
The visitors continued in this vein, their scrum in the ascendency and their line out functioning well in the conditions, bringing a good penalty count in their favour and placing the much fancied home team under pressure.
A diificult penalty conversion was missed by Cox as the first quarter closed, but then a series of injuries commenced, with winger Michael Taylor having to leave the pitch and second row Robert Hull deputised to his berth. Maintaining pressure, Ards found CV as equally effective in attack and a number of opportunities were spoiled by clever and determined Ards defence.
By the half hour mark, the match was very fluid, the ball moving from end to end, but with each side’s defensive efforts in their 22 outdoing their attackers. Clear opportunities were hard earned and a superb break by Ards winger Mark McLean from his own half was unlucky not to produce a score, as CV bundled the ball into touch from his chip through.
The half ended at a furious pace and the early scores not added to. At 5 - 3 the game was finely poised and the score reflecting the closeness of the encounter. There was plenty to encourage at the half time interval. Ards 1st phase was marginally the better and their defence pressing well and forcing errors.
The second half continued as the first ended, with each side putting together good phases and presenting a steely defence. However, Ards' injury count was mounting, with McLean carrying a sore hamstring and second row Ross Torney an injured shoulder. Losing Taylor so early in the game gave few substitution options to the coaching team, but the Ardsmen battled on with 13 fit players.
As the third quarter was closing, the situation became too much for the visitors. Although still making good ground in attack, CV’s trademark driving maul could not be contained and they registered 2 converted tries in quick succession to take a 19-3 lead.
Digging deep, Ards held on well, until an excellent late break by the CV fly half gave the home side the bonus point try that seemed unlikely on the hour mark and a 24-3 win.
Much credit must be given to this Ards team, who were magnificent in defeat and gave an excellent account of themselves, despite the heavy toll of injuries on the day.
This Saturday Ards welcome Randalstown to Hamilton Park as the season finishes with a flurry of important matches and with much still be decided in the final standings.