Portadown making solid progress
Portadown 17 CIYMS 6: Portadown triumphed over CIYMS at Chambers Park on Saturday in a spectacle that failed to live up to its pre-match billing as a contest between two of the league's best sides.
Last year the pair occupied the top spots in the table but, with both teams still displaying some early-season rustiness, the game never seemed to truly ignite and Portadown were able to ease towards the win without ever appearing to hit their stride.
After captaining his side to victory, Portadown's Jonny Holden commented: "We're still trying to progress towards where we want to be and it hasn't been helped by having a few of our pre-season games cancelled.
"We've felt that maybe in games so far we've been letting the other teams stick with us and we haven't really been putting them away like we should have done.
"Today was always going to be tough after how they pushed us all the way last season and they are obviously a very good side.
"Hopefully this win will get us going but it's been a tough start to the season that we've had and it won't be getting any easier next week when we have to go to Clogher Valley."
The game's only try came in the opening minutes, but it was also a passage of play that would provide the afternoon's enduring controversy.
Portadown managed to turnover a CI lineout and from the resulting counter-attack Wayne Kelly was afforded too much space by the retreating opposition back-line and found wing Nicky Jackson on the overlap to streak home in the corner.
The score, however, came when CI's Michael Wilson was receiving treatment for a rib injury that the east Belfast side claimed had been sustained as the result of an intentional blow in the build up that should have brought a penalty against Portadown and a yellow card.
The influential playmaker was unable to continue and was replaced by Duncan Gleadhill.
That forced a reshuffle with Neil Wallace, brother of Ulster's Paddy, moving to scrum half and Gleadhill taking his place on the wing.
After missing the conversion, Barry Gribben made amends soon after when he kicked a penalty to give the home side an 8-0 lead.
A pair of Matthew McQuigan kicks reduced the deficit to two points with a quarter of an hour remaining in the first-half, but it was to prove as close as CI would come to parity throughout the remainder of the game.
Gribben added a further three points before the turn, leaving the score 11-6 at the break.
After the restart, Wallace was coping admirably with his positional switch, but without the inspirational Wilson on the field CIYMS were akin to an orchestra performing without their conductor and it was Portadown who looked the more likely scorers.
The closest either side came to a further try occurred when Holden charged down a CIYMS kick and while he thought he had applied the necessary downward pressure on the ball, the referee adjudged that the covering Andy Hodgen had done just enough to prevent the touchdown.
CI forays into the opposition half became increasingly rare as the game progressed, but with the talismanic Stuart Lamb still out for Portadown with an arm injury sustained on the opening day, the league champions could not translate their territory into further scores.
Their cause was not aided when the impressive Gareth McCoy was forced off through injury and, with a trip to Clogher Valley to come next week, head coach Richard Hedley will be hoping it is not an ailment that hampers his loose forward for long.
A pair of penalties from Gribben ensured that CI were not even afforded the consolation of a losing bonus point and despite their increasing efforts to run the ball from deep they were unable to add any further points to their first half total.