Lets Not Forget these first 2 games against City Of Derry & Malone are sides who will be looking for AIL A1 status, this Ards side is seriously good and the club have in the true spirit of the game produced the following report which is an inspiration to read – thanks guys for your vision!
Ards 7 V 43 Malone
Ards welcomed Malone to Hamilton Park last Saturday, and despite the scoreline, this was a spirited display by the Ardsmen against a talented side who gained promotion last season to division 1B of the All Ireland League. The game was played in fine, dry conditions and Ards played with the wind at their backs in the first half. It was clear from the start that Malone had come with a game plan of fast ruck ball and off loading in the tackle which was playing to their strengths. Although Ards took the first Malone scrum against the head, this proved to be an area of the game dominated by the visitors as the match progressed.
Malone took the lead as early as the 4th minute when they scored an unconverted try, but Ards struck back with a try of their own in the 1oth minute. With Ards encamped just inside the Malone 22 metre line, Nathan Barnett, who had a fine game on his full debut, came off the right wing to storm into the centre of the pitch. He passed out of the tackle and the ball was eventually transferred to Nathan Burns on the left wing. The Regent School leaver showed his opposite number a clean pair of heals to score his second senior try in two weeks. Mark Banford calmly slotted over the conversion and Ards had a 7-5 lead which they held until the 25th minute. It was at this stage of the match that Malone began to cause the Ards scrum difficulties and from a turnover ball they scored a try wide out on the left which was converted to give them the lead again at 12-7. It appeared that would be the half time score, but Malone had other ideas. Ards lost Steven Minis to an injury and also missed a penalty . From the drop out, Malone were quickly in to their stride and scored a fine converted try in the 37th minute. They increased their lead right on the half time whistle with a further try to leave Ards trailing by 24 -7 at the interval.
The second half saw Malone in no mood to canter and an unconverted try in the 46th minute gave them a 29-7 lead. The cruelty of the senior game was plain to see in the 53 minute when Ards appeared to have scored an excellent try of their own, only for the Malone touch judge to raise his flag for a foot in touch which seemed to take everyone by surprise. Dowey and McCausland were prominent in the forwards, taking the play to Malone and when Barnett got involved in the movement he put real pace into it. Ards kept the ball alive and with Parkhill and Young both involved and it was Taylor Ferguson who was on the end of the final pass to touchdown, only for play to be brought back to the 22 metre line by a raised flag. Malone then went the length of the pitch to score under the posts and with the conversion their lead was extended to 36 -7.
Malone then had the final say with a try right on the final whistle. Full credit to them for playing an expansive entertaining game and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the higher league they are in this season. For Ards there were positives to take out of the game, perhaps most noteably the return of Matthew Weir and Taylor Ferguson to the squad after long injuries. They both came off the bench to replace the injured Steven Minis and Nathan Burns respectively.
They acquitted themselves admirably in their reintroduction to rugby at this level and will come into the mix for selection from here on, as the squad settles and continues to prepare for the All Ireland League. The Ards squad for the Malone match was; Jonny Millar, David Graham (Capt), Andrew Foster, Andrew Calvert, John Dowey, Rob McCausland, Steven Minis, Darren Kelly, Kyle Agnew, Mark Banford, Nathan Burns, Scott Young, David Parkhill, Nathan Barnett, Jonny Beggs, Colin McClure, Matthew Weir, Michael Young, Craig Devlin, Taylor Ferguson.