Ports peaking at perfect time in battle for fourth place
CIYMS 0 - 27 Portadown
Portadown eased their way to a comfortable win over CIYMS on Saturday afternoon to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year's All-Ireland Junior Cup.
The victory keeps the Chambers Park men level on points with Ballyclare, who occupy the fourth and final qualifying spot, and Dromore although they have played two games more than the latter.
With two remaining fixtures against Ballyclare and Cooke, a pair of wins would put pressure on Dromore to deliver in the games in hand, one of which pits them against league leaders Instonians.
For the hosts, their depleted side - missing captain Gavin Woods, prop Elliott Boyd, flanker Mark McConkey and scrum-half Michael Wilson - slumped to a fourth consecutive league game without a win and remain eighth.
Their place in Kukri Qualifying One for next year will still be confirmed however, should Donaghadee fail to beat Dromore on Saturday.
Portadown coach Richard Hedley knows the top four battle is intensifying, but feels his side have peaked at the right time after a tough start to 2015.
"We've two home matches against Cooke and Ballyclare, and they'll be going for that fourth spot too, so it could all come down to that final game," he said.
"It's going to be tough but I'd certainly be more confident now than I would have been in January. I think we've turned the corner a little bit."
Hedley was especially pleased with the first half, which featured a try from James Carleton and eight points from the boot of Chris Cousins, and felt his side's superior discipline at the breakdown was a key factor.
"I thought, playing into the wind, the first-half was as good a 40 minutes of rugby as we've played all season.
"We controlled the ball really well, we took our chances, and our decision making was really good."
The conditions in east Belfast were atrocious as there was nothing but wintry weather and a driving rain and swirling wind were evident throughout.
As such, handling was difficult and the opening stages were a scrappy affair.
Ten minutes elapsed before the first scoring opportunity when, after stand-in skipper Mark Scott was penalised on the deck, Cousins knocked over the resulting penalty.
As the game entered its second quarter, Portadown threatened the C.I line after a good move involving Diarmaid O'Kane but hooker Robert Reid was forced into touch by Matt Armstrong.
Six minutes later, the visitors would double their lead however when a C.I offside was punished again by the boot of Cousins.
With half time approaching, C.I were again penalised at the breakdown and Cousins took aim for the corner.
Reid's throw was on target to Gareth McCoy but good work from Tim Acheson appeared to have halted the attack's momentum.
Just as C.I appeared set to force the turnover, however, Carleton muscled his way on to the ball and over the whitewash. Cousins converted for a 13-point lead.
The first score after the turn was crucial and, despite some strong running from Andy Hodgen and Neil Wallace, it went to Portadown five minutes after the resumption of play when O'Kane went over in the left corner.
The conversion from the touchline seemed unlikely but a great effort from Cousins provided the extras.
Matters almost worsened soon after for the hosts when a quick exchange of passes from Johnny Holden, Robert Gacek and Andrew Chambers sent the winger into the clear but the referee adjudged that the ball had gone forward.
There was to be one further score in the final moments when Holden broke again and his offload freed O'Kane to go in underneath the posts for his second of the day.
Cousins made his fifth kick to move the score to 27-0.
Portadown had one final chance to go for the fourth try that would have brought a bonus point but missed their touch from a penalty and the final whistle soon sounded.