AIB League 3: Instonians 27 Ards 13

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Saturday 20th February. Roy Lawton reports.

Ards were unable to replicate their magnificent performance they had against Navan the previous week, when they travelled to Shaws Bridge last Saturday to face Instonians in the AIB league and probably only have themselves to blame.

In a game littered with so many handling errors and lack of support play, Ards were always going to be up against an Instonians side that was quick to latch onto every mistake and counter attacked with great efficiency and steely determination.

The game kicked off in ideal conditions and both teams looked to be fairly evenly matched in terms of size, strength and ability. Both sets of forwards matched each other fairly well in all aspects of play and the backs, man for man, appeared to cancel each other out.

Twelve minutes into the game and the hosts got their opening score with a good try from their robust number 7 David Bradford, converted by Gary Clotworthay. On 17 minutes, Stephen Douglas touched down to extend their lead, again converted by Clotworthay.

Ards though, were starting to make inroads themselves and on 20 minutes, after some good passages of play from the forwards, Kenny Heslip crashed over the line to score his second try in consecutive weeks, to get the visitors tally up and running, The successful conversion attempt was landed by Michael Lawton and there was a ‘game on’ situation.

On 36 minutes, Lawton narrowed the gap still further with a well struck penalty before Clotworthay returned the favour a couple of minutes later, to lead 17 – 10 at the half way stage.

The first half performance by Ards was only shuffling along compared to the previous week, with ball being fumbled or not going to hand and frustration gradually creeping onto the scene. Some excellent breaks by Kenny McCombe, Ajay Derwin, Scott Young, Jaydon Hill and Stewart Paul went a begging as the ball carriers found themselves isolated and so unable to continue with the attack when they became overwhelmed by superior numbers. Kenny McCombe and Andy Hassard worked hard off the side of the ruck and scrums to hold back the ever present danger and put in some fierce tackles.

In the second half it was much the same as far as Ards were concerned, as passes were miss timed and failed to go to hand or ball carriers found themselves running into brick walls of Instonian defenders and losing the ball due to lack of support play from their teammates.

On the plus side that shrewd individual Ajay Derwin, once again stood out as one of the most astute cool headed players in the team, as he read the game well and turned over a lot of good ball for his own players to try and counter with. Scott Young and Taylor Ferguson put in some great tackles to prevent tries from being scored and David Algie, Kenny Heslip and Jaydon Hill also put themselves about to disrupt much of the host’s game plan.

On 46 minutes, Instonians further extended their lead with another penalty before Seamus Mallon scored their third try on 56 minutes, again converted by Clotworthay to go into a more commanding lead as the game moved into the final quarter.

Ards had been sustaining a number of injuries throughout the game and John Dowey, Keith McIlwaine, David Keys, Johnny Garrett and Trevor Devlin were all introduced at different times in the half to help bolster the embattled Ardsmen.

Seventy minutes on the clock and Lawton landed a second penalty, but by now the game was starting to slip away. Keith McIlwaine, Jaydon Hill and Stewart Paul all made more good breaks, but these fizzled out as the home side swamped the ball carriers to prevent an offload and so ruin their day.

At the final whistle, Ards could only rue their missed opportunities unlike Instonians, who took their chances when the openings presented themselves and finished them off with a real killer instinct.

Though a disappointing performance from an Ards perspective, this result still leaves them sitting in twelfth position in the league, with three games left to play.

Next week Ards host Portadown in the first round of the First Trust Senior Cup. This will be the third meeting of these two teams at Hamilton Park this season and with both teams drawing the ‘series’ one apiece so far, this is a game that could go either way.

Ards squad: – J Millar, C Piper, A Foster, D Algie, K Heslip, A Hassard, K McCombe, J Hill, M Banford, S Paul, A Derwin, S Young, T Ferguson, M Taylor, M Lawton, D Keys, J Garrett, J Dowey, K McIlwaine, T Devlin.

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