Match report: UUC v Ards 1sts
By STEPHEN NUTT
Lesson learnt by Ards at UUC
Ards 1sts made the journey to Coleraine on Saturday to play UUC RFC in their penultimate fixture this season in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship 2nd Division.
With the students already relegated and many regulars absent and in Dublin watching Ulster in the European Champions Cup, Ards took a changed squad with a number of positional changes. The pitch at the Coleraine Campus was in its usually excellent order and conditions were near perfect, bar a light wind.
Kicking off, both teams brought good pace and width to their games from the off. Ards enjoyed a good spell of territorial advantage in the UUC half and with a hugely dominant scrum, good front foot ball.
Despite this early pressure, the students’ defence was fresh and they eventually managed a long clearing kick into the Ards half. Taking a quick throw in proved to be an unwise decision, as the chasing UUC line isolated Ards wing Adam Faloon and earned a penalty, with Faloon retiring with a rib injury.
Substitute backs are rarely carried at this level and second row Robert Hull was pressed into wing duty to cover. Taking a kick down the line from their penalty, UUC put the ball out through their quick back line for their outside centre to ghost through an Ards defence still reorganising itself and take the opening score. Duly converted, they took the lead. UUC 7 v Ards 0
Ards then pressed to regain a foothold and despite a flow of good possession, found handling errors all too easy to make. With play breaking down after a handful of phases, Ards were unable to gather momentum.
Eventually, though, after good pressure through the forwards, an opportunity was created out wide and their opening score taken after 35 minutes. The conversion from Paul Cox was just wide, but the score brought back to 7-5, where it remained until the half time break.
Play resumed after a frank half time talk, but it was the home side who’s tails were up, sensing an unlikely victory. Miscommunication in the unfamiliar Ards midfield saw UUC record 2 quick scores, one converted, for a 17-5 lead, with half an hour still to play.
With injuries coming to the fore for both sides and the constant pace taking effect, Ards made some rotations, with flankers Onisi Burekama and Paddy Bond taking to the centre. Persistence and hard work in the forwards eventually saw Bond make a trademark run back inside and defy a number of defenders to take a score under the posts with less than 10 minutes remaining. Cox successfully drop kicked the conversion and the deficit back to 17-12.
Pressing again, a good line was made by Bond straight away and he took another fine score out wide in the face of last ditch defence from the students. Cox’s conversion was just shy of the posts and the score now tied at 17-17 with a couple on minutes left.
UUC took a deep restart kick, which Ards then set about running back with width in an attempt to snatch the win. A clever read by the UUC centre saw him intercept in the face of an overlap and run in for a the winning converted score, at 24-17.
The students celebrated their deserved second win of the season with jubilation, whilst Ards could only rue their litany of missed opportunities on the day.