Clogher Valley resurgence continues

Thursday, 19 January 2017

CLOGHER Valley travelled to Ards on Saturday fielding four changes from the starting line-up of the previous week.

Ards I XV...10
Clogher Valley I XV...15

Out were Robinson, Breen, Orr and Wilson, and in came Whyte, Ellis, Falconer and McKenna.

Despite their precarious league position Ards always make it very difficult for visiting sides. As warm and convivial welcome as received anywhere this season was followed by as difficult an on-field encounter that any side would wish for.

This was a game of contrasting styles, Clogher were in complete control in the forward exchanges but with what possession they could muster Ards were inventive, accurate and very dangerous in their back play.

The game opened with a few minutes of sparring and a few of shadow boxing as the combatants sought the measure of each other. On the five minute mark Clogher grabbed the initiative; a twenty metre driving maul was halted illegally and Trotter pushed the visitors deep into the Ards red zone. Perfectly executed line out and drive gave the Valley a chance of first blood but it was held up over the line. The Valley made no mistake from the resulting five metre scrum though. The Ards pack was shunted back and Ryan Wilson was on hand to grab the opening try of the day. It went unconverted but the early breakthrough and the forward dominance augured well for those who made the trip to the peninsula.

Ards were soon to shake any complacency back down the M1 as their backline simply cut loose giving Clogher a torrid defensive examination. In quick succession they exposed two defensive mid- field frailties that had the visitors struggling to hold on.

The second breach led to a try as play was swept across the park for a touchdown wide out. Cox the Ards out half who displayed deft kicking skills all afternoon landed the difficult conversion to take a two point lead. Minutes later he had a penalty to increase the advantage but on this occasion it drifted marginally wide in the freshening breeze.

The Valley responded by cutting off the supply to the Ards back division. Ball acquisition and retention was required and achieved as the visitors upped the ante in the second quarter. Another Trotter penalty achieved a good field position. The lineout maul routine, as oft times before, worked again with Cobane getting the all-important touchdown giving his side the initiative once again. Not goaled but the Valley pushed on for a third try. Again Ards managed to hold the Valley up in the closing exchanges frustrating the visitors when it seemed a try was on the cards and in doing so keeping the interval differential to a meagre thee points.

The second period began badly for Clogher, a poor restart, scrum back and Ards launched their back line at the Clogher rear guard. Several sorties were well dealt with but the inevitable penalty would arise and Cox squared the contest on the 45 minute mark.

Trotter responded with a great restart which Eugene McKenna fielded to drive forward. A series of big carries and a subsequent maul saw Clogher drive over the line but once again to be held up. Credit to Ards, in both fixtures this season, they proved very adept at preventing the Valley capitalising through the maul. Different matter though from the resulting scrum, Ards in retreat, Ryan Wilson pick up and drive, third Valley try. No conversion but a slight Clogher advantage once again.

As in the first period Ards immediately tried to hit back through their backs with their out half and both centres proving very effective.

The Valley defensively were now better organised and for the next ten kept the advances under wraps. Cox hit a great penalty into the corner to set up a promising scenario, several phases later Ards were awarded a scrum on the Valley 22 metre line.

This was a game winning scrum from a Clogherperspective. A huge drive disrupted the Ards scrum so much so they were penalised for breaking off and Trotter cleared to beyond the half way. This effectively ended the Ards threat with Clogher going on to dominate both possession and territory. An incisive Sharkey break carried on by Wilson almost led to the fourth try but Ards recovered to hold on. Another scrum saw Ards retreat some ten metres but as a try seemed assured the scrum collapsed and for reasons only known to the official Clogher were penalised for bringing it down.

There was to be no further scoring and Clogher were delighted to gain the four points and Ards got their first point of the season, which will probably not be their last, on this showing.


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