3rd XV get revenge on Ards 2nd XV in a close match

Instonians 3rd XV 20 v Ards 2nd XV 19 – Phew!!

This week the 3rd XV were in action at home to Ards 2nd XV in a return league fixture, having already played the same opposition in the opening match of the season early in September. The result that afternoon was one to forget, when the 3’s went down to a heavy defeat, picking up several long term injuries in the process.

With four matches scheduled to be played at Shawsbridge on Saturday, this match took place at the school grounds, and was played in perfect conditions, with no wind and on a firm and dry pitch.

With three teams playing during the weekend resources were again stretched, as a result several new faces were in Saturday’s squad, which had the potential to lead to disruption. Saturday’s performance was to prove otherwise as the squad set about their business.

The opening stages were positive and on the whole the home team enjoyed the majority of possession while the territorial advantage was evenly matched.

As was the case last week the 3’s had several lineout options which were working well until an unfortunate injury to Ethan McKnight making his debut for the team led to a reshuffle in the pack, as Joe Fryers switched to the back row after only fifteen minutes. Ethan’s injury looked to be quite serious at the time however x-rays have shown no major damage. We wish Ethan a speedy recovery and hope to welcome him back soon.

The early disruption seemed to affect the home team’s concentration as Ards capitalised scoring a converted try to take the lead after twenty minutes 0-7.

Instonians were soon back in the game and began to impose themselves upon the opposition, playing a high tempo game, keeping the ball in hand and attacking the defence in close and out wide. The pressure eventually told as Jerome Hannon stepped inside the defence and forced his way over in the corner to reduce the lead. With the conversion unsuccessful the sore moved to 5-7.

It was visitors turn to take the initiative as they began to enjoy a period of dominance. With the Instonians backline pressurising the Ards attack, a clever chip behind the oncoming defence led to a footrace to the line which was won by Ards. The successful conversion stretched the visitor’s lead to 5-14.

As half time approached Instonians once again lifted their game and began to play some great high intensity rugby moving the ball between the backs and forwards and retaining possession. Eventually after numerous phases of play, the impressive Finlay Bodel squeezed over for the home team’s second try of the match. Once again the conversion was unsuccessful leaving the halftime score 10-14.

The second half began as the first half had finished, with Instonians now the dominant team, continuing to play at a pace which Ards were now struggling to compete with. Both Backs and forwards looked comfortable on the ball and there was a hunger to look for work both in possession and in defence.

This dominance forced the visitors into conceding penalties which Instonians cleverly chose to run to retain possession rather than kick for territory. The tactic worked well as the tiring opposition were forced onto the back foot. Having worked their way into the visitors twenty two Instonians were awarded a lineout fifteen meters out. With Neil Salters hitting his targets all day, the ball was taken at the front by Rab Brown, with a solid platform the Instonians pack set up a fantastic controlled rolling maul, which the pack now joined by several backs reset and continued to inch their way to the Ards try line. As Momentum gathered the pack forced their way over the line with Neil Salters the last man up claiming the home team’s third try. Again the difficult conversion drifted wide, however, Instonians now moved into a 15-14 lead.

There was still twenty minutes to go and as the game moved into the final quarter both teams continued to play great rugby, which was appreciated by those watching from the side-lines.

The Instonians substitutions were beginning to have an impact with another debutant, Robb Barnes, showing great speed and strength returning with interest the Ards clearance kicks.

Into the final ten minutes the home teams dominance continued as they pinned Ards into their twenty two. With Ards carrying over their own line Instonians were awarded a five meter scrum, fifteen meters in from touch. The solid platform in the scrum provided James Poland the opportunity to pick and drive towards the line spinning out of tackles to score the fourth and bonus point try for the home team. Once again the conversion was missed leaving the 20-14.

The final nervous minutes were played with the visitors on the front foot, as they forced Instonians to concede penalties and territory. In the last play of the game Ards scored a try in the corner bring the score to 20-19 with the conversion to come. Having already converted two trys the Ards kicker had the opportunity to win the game. Alas the attempted kick landed short and the final whistle blew for the end of a thoroughly enjoyable and well fought victory to the home team 20-19.

Saturday’s squad was a blend, experienced 3’s stalwarts and regulars, a numbers of debutants and several players just returning to play. When Robb Barnes come on to make his debut on Saturday he was the 58th player to represent the 3rd XV this season. Given this eclectic mix it would have been understandable for the performance to be reflective, however, Saturday’s 3’s squad showed great character and team spirit, and a desire to win throughout the match, which resulted in the well-deserved bonus point victory.

Thank you to Ards 2’s for Saturday’s match, which was evenly contested and played in Great Spirit throughout. There was little between the teams and on another day the result could have been reversed.

To the referee, thank you for your efforts, the game was allowed to flow and decisions were consistent and explained throughout.

Thanks also go to RBAI for facilitating the match at the school grounds, where many of Saturday’s squad had played their schoolboy rugby.

Team 1-18: Matthew Nelson, Neil Salters, John Carser, Ryan Hickland, Ethan McKnight, Darryl Smith, Rab Brown, James Poland, Finlay Bodel, Richard Maguire (C), Scott Croft, Benji Hawthorne, Joe Fryers, Lewis Bodel, Joe Murphy, Robb Barnes, Jerome Hannon, Johan Markarian.