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Late drama can't stop Portadown

By Jonathan Bradley

Potadown maintained their position at the top of Kukri Qualifying 1 after they escaped Barban Hill with a narrow victory.

It was, however, a contest that was marred with late controversy.

Last season's champions were trailing by three points when Dromore full-back Aaron Stewart appeared to call for a mark on a deep kick to the corner.

With the home side expecting to be given the opportunity to clear their lines, the referee continued play with Portadown subsequently forcing a turnover that allowed Chris McVitty to send a cross-field kick to the corner that Wayne Kelly gathered to score the match-winning try.

Irrespective of the manner or margin victory, Portadown captain Jonny Holden was happy to take four points from a contest that ended with the visitors forced to field a centre, Kelly, and a loose forward, Diarmuid O'Kane, on the wings due to injuries.

"Dromore is always a hard place to come and we always seem to end up in a dogfight here," said Holden.

"They showed a lot of heart out there and we were forced into a bit of a reshuffle so we're just happy to get away with a win."

Dromore began the game brightly but could not translate their early possession into points

When they did make a breakthrough, it came against 14 men after Portadown's Barry Gribben had been shown a yellow card following an altercation with home captain Adam Macgregor.

With the scrum-half watching on from the sidelines, Johnny Maguire's excellent pass found wing Brian McClean who produced a great dummy to shake the attentions of full-back Ryan Calvert and cross the line.

Ryan Cobb, with a strong but swirling wind at his back, had by now found his range and added the conversion and a precise penalty from the sideline after Kelly had been penalised for not releasing nine minutes later.

Both sides were warned by the referee about their conduct at the breakdown as half-time approached, so when Stuart Russell was pinged for having his hands in the ruck, a yellow card was the inevitable result.

Chris McVitty's failed to reduce the arrears with the resulting penalty, his first kick at goal of the afternoon falling just short.

The out-half, who missed last week's win over Bangor, did add three points soon after though, confidently sending his kick between the posts with the final action before the interval.

The opening stages of the second-half proved to be a tight affair, an errant drop goal attempt from Cobb the closest either side came to altering the score.

Portadown did draw level as the third quarter neared its conclusion, however, following a try by O'Kane.

Dromore seemed to be on the verge of quelling the Portadown attack when Gareth Fitzpatrick forced Andrew Chambers into touch but was adjudged to have tackled without using his arms, allowing Portadown to kick the penalty into the corner.

James Carlton gathered the line-out and a trademark rolling maul from the visitors ended with O'Kane touching down.

Cobb restored the home side's lead via a penalty, but the game's contentious turning point would occur just minutes later.

Following Kelly's debatable score, there was still over 10 minutes left to play but the decision seemed to deflate a hitherto spirited Dromore side who failed to mount any form of response in the final minutes. It was, however, a performance that bodes well for their season.

Portadown will be happy to have ground out a win when not at their best and lead Clogher Valley and Bangor by a point.

Belfast Telegraph

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