QUALIFYING !: Portadown 10, Instonians 13
Portadown hosted league leaders Instonians at Chambers Park, keen to avenge their pre-Christmas defeat to the Belfast men.
The first quarter was a tense struggle with both sides looking to impose their play on the opponent but it was the visitors who struck first with a successful penalty from inside the home 2’2’ following a ruck infringement. The home side responded well and went in front five minutes later with an excellent try. Following good ruck ball by the home pack, and great interplay between Ashton, Cesar and Jack Orr, centre Niall Davison crossed for the score which was converted by Cousens.
The remainder of the half was a continuance of the first quarter with neither side able to gain control and half-time arrived with the home side 7-3 in front.
Just as they had done in the December game, Instonians hit Portadown with a ‘sucker’ try two minutes into the second half.
A rare line-out error from Portadown gave Instonians a foothold in the home 22 from where the Inst full-back crossed for a converted try which put the visitors 10-7 in front.
Back came Portadown with Cousens levelling the scores from a penalty inside the visitors’ 22.
Not long after, centre Cesar made a scintillating break from inside his half. Good support from the pack saw the ball recycled to scrum-half Michael Orr who was only denied a try by an excellent cover tackle.
This heralded a period of dominant Portadown play as they remained camped in the visitor’s 22. A series of five metre scrums from the dominant home eight went unrewarded by the referee and Inst were eventually able to clear their lines.
Cousens was just off target with a 40m penalty on 70 minutes and it looked set to end a 10-10 draw.
However, there was to be a final twist as Inst brought play into the Portadown 22 were the home defence were harshly penalised at the ruck. The Instonians out-half converted the resultant shot at goal to give the visitors an unlikely win.
This was one of Portadown’s best performances of the season so the losing bonus point is scant reward for the manner in which they want about their work.
The top of Qualifying 1 is tightly contested and with many difficult games for the leading contenders, Portadown are by no means out of the running, particularly if they can continue to play in the manner they displayed in this fixture.