PORTADOWN 4XV 18 – 8 ARDS 3XV
Portadown fourths are a side with momentum at the minute and a physical Ards outfit were the latest team to suffer defeat against them in the Foster Cup. The first half was a nip and tuck affair, littered with big hits and strong running play by both mobile forward units. Ards converted an early penalty to take a 3-0 lead but when they had a player sin-binned in the 25th minute they looked vulnerable and the Blues took maximum advantage to score a try in the corner through Robert Morton. 5-3 at half-time. Portadown were on the back foot early in the second half having two players yellow carded in quick succession. The naivety of the transgressions was disappointing but the manner in which the team weathered ten minutes with only thirteen players was heartening, Ards unable to breach the defence. Restored to their full compliment, Portadown cut loose. A cross-field kick by Declan Judge was collected by winger Mo Duffy to score out wide. 10-3.. Ards responded with a try of their own but the Blues were well on top and a carbon copy link up between Judge and Duffy delivered another try for a 15-8 lead. The Blues could and perhaps should have scored more but had to settle for a late penalty that left the final score 18-8. A great win for Andrew Gilpins fourths, hardly a missed tackle in the game and the desire shown from 1-15 was particularly pleasing. Best on the day were Adam Herron and Robert Morton, both tenacious in the loose.
PORTADOWN 2XV 17 – 30 COOKE 2XV
With only one game of rugby under their belts in 2011 the 2nds understandably started the game slowly. From a defensive line out the referee, in what was to be only one of many frustrating decisions to go against the Blues, penalised portadown for a crooked throw. From the resulting attacking scrum an audacious dummy was bought by the defence and Cooke got through to score under the posts. Portadown then asserted some consistent pressure, recycling well and running through phases of play and opening up space. This resulted in Colin Lawson running in for a well worked score. Soon after, an excellent long range drop goal from the Cooke number 10 put them into a 10-5 lead. Portadown came back well from this and played some of the best rugby of the season to date. The set piece was giving a solid platform for the backs to start playing some great rugby. A move which saw Portadown recycle the ball through 6 phases led to Peter Keightly grounding under the posts for a seven pointer converted by Chris Goodland. From this it was odds on that the Blues would push on and win the game comfortably. Unfortunately this was not to be. A series of refereeing decisions continually thwarted Portadown’s attempts to build on their lead. Just before the break instead of taking the plaudits for some excellent work in the loose Lee McClure had to make his way to the sideline for a 10 min sin bin. From the resultant penalty Cooke crashed over for another try.
After the break it was more of the same. Every time Portadown looked to threaten the whistle would go as again excellent rucking was deemed illeagal. On the upside team skipper Jonny Hampton went in for what must be a contender for try of the season. Picking the ball up from the base of a ruck outside the opponents 22, he danced past at least five Cooke defenders and showed a clean pair of heels to the line.
The score finished 30-17 to Cooke who to be fair took their chances well and produced an excellent defensive effort throughout the match to keep Portadown out. With league points again dropped the seconds will now look to the cup, a competition in which they could yet bring silverware to Chambers’ Park this season.
PORTADOWN 3XV 8 – 16 LISBURN 2XV
Having beaten Lisburn in the Crawford Cup only two weeks ago, Portadown went into this league fixture full of confidence. The first half was a poor effort though, the forward unit – usually so effective – was out-muscled and out-thought by their city counterparts. Lisburn led 8-0 at the break thanks to a well-worked try and dubious penalty. The second half did see the Ports up their game and Ashley Pepper got a try after a great break by Darren Thomson, but at that stage Lisburn had a comfortable lead and the result never really looked in any danger. It is fair to say this was a below par performance from Geoff Caldwell’s team, but there were some positives to be gleaned, most notably the half-back combination of Reece Brown and Aaron Morton.