Portadown College and Banbridge Academy played a close fought, but at times scrappy, encounter in bright, but very windy conditions.
The home team has been ravaged by injuries but put on a good enough performance to narrowly win the game. The Portadown College team started well and had an early opportunity to take the lead but failed to do so having opened up the Banbridge Academy midfield defence in the first minute. However, five minutes later, they were awarded a penalty when the dominant Banbridge Academy scrum was penalised. Niall Davidson made no mistake with his penalty to give his team a 3-0 lead.
The Portadown College team continued to dominate the territory and scored a try through their hard running prop forward, Jordan Elliott, fifteen minutes into the game. Niall Davidson added the conversion to put his team into a 10-0 lead. The home team maintained this lead until the interval.
Despite the promptings of the Portadown College half backs, Ben Matchett and Niall Davidson, the Banbridge defence held firm in the opening exchanges of the second half. In fact, it was the visitors who scored the first points of the second period when David Carlton converted a penalty opportunity to reduce the arrears to 10-3. Good work from the impressive Portadown flanker, Ryan Turner, presented the opportunity for Niall Davidson to convert a penalty to put the College team into a 13-3 lead after sixty minutes. The Banbridge coaching staff then sprung Ulster U19 player, Aaron Kennedy, off the bench with just eight minutes remaining.
Aaron is recovering from a tonsillectomy but showed no ill effects when he opened up the Portadown College defence to put his winger, David Carlton, in for a try. Aaron converted the try to take the score to 13-10 in favour of the home team. Despite all-out attack by the visitors in the final minutes, the Portadown defence was well-organised and the College team held out for a 13-10 win.
Larne Grammar School hosted near neighbours, Carrickfergus Grammar School, in a midweek game at the Lower Cairncastle Road venue. Carrickfergus GS pressure from the kick off by winger, Reece Berry, saw the Larne defence spill the ball backwards and force the Larne outhalf to kick the ball into touch just past the 22m line. The Carrickfergus Grammar School forwards claimed a successful lineout and drove over the line for an unconverted try from Scott Wallace. Play began again and Larne regained possession for a short while before kicking the ball deep. Reece Berry gathered well and made an impressive run from his own half to run in for an unconverted try to take the score to 10-0. The visitors dominated possession and Robert O’Callaghan soon ran in for the first of his five tries. The try was converted by Michael Black to give the Carrickfergus GS team a 17-0 lead. The Larne Grammar School team showed some determination in their game and Larne were next to score. Connor Connolly made it 17-5 after a number of pick and drive attempts by his forwards presented him with the opportunity to touch down for an unconverted try. Reece Berry then ran in for his second try of the game. Michael Black converted to give the Carrickfergus GS team a 24-5 lead at half time.
The second half saw strong ball carrying from Robert O’Callaghan which enabled him to touch down for four unconverted tries. John Campbell also put his name on the score sheet with another unconverted try to leave the Carrickfergus Grammar School team finish the game as deserved 49-5 winners.
Omagh Academy travelled to Magherafelt to play the Rainey Endowed team. The game began in sunny, but cold, conditions and both sides took their time to settle into the game. From the outset it was clear that this was going to be a very physical game and whoever won the battle up front would be the most likely to go on and win the game. Both teams had periods of possession with the ball early on but both defences were well organised and worked hard to break down any attacking opportunities. On fifteen minutes the Academy boys turned over ball in their own half and worked a number of phases towards the Rainey line. Omagh’s out half, Neil MacLaine, took a flat pass from scrum half, Adam Beattie, and was able to muscle his way to the try line, touching the ball off the bottom of the post protector to score a fine try.
James Catterson converted to give the Omagh team 7-0 lead. From the restart, James Catterson was involved again when he caught the kick and powered towards the Rainey defence. He offloaded to his captain, Adam Longwell, who similarly charged forwards before skilfully offloading to Lloyd Kane. Lloyd was now in a two on one with Scott Hemphill in support and Lloyd timed the pass to perfection to put his team mate in the clear for an excellent score close to the posts. Uncharacteristically, James Catterson missed the conversion but Omagh Academy now had a 12-0 lead. Again Omaghs’ forwards dominated at the breakdown and worked their way into Rainey’s 22m area before releasing the backline. Scott Barr was unlucky not to make the try line but he presented excellent ball and Adam Longwell was on hand to pick up from the base of the ruck and power over from short distance for an unconverted try to put his team into a 17-0 lead. Omagh finished the half in a disappointing way.
A penalty was conceded and Rainey kicked for touch. The lineout was won and the Rainey forwards drove an excellent maul just short of the line. After numerous pick and go efforts one finally came off when Michael Dawson powered over the Omagh Academy line for a try. The try was converted by Kieran Lynch to leave the score at half time 17-7 in favour of the Omagh Academy team.
Omagh began the second half in a positive manner and looked to run the ball at every opportunity as they knew it would be difficult to kick into the strong wind. The backline continuously made ground and the hard working pack were quickly in support to retain possession.
The Academy boys had much of the possession for the opening twenty minutes of the second half but could only get close to the line to develop one try scoring opportunity which was unfortunately turned over on the line by the Rainey Endowed defence. As frustration mounted, mistakes crept into the game and Omagh gave away some needless penalties. This allowed Rainey to gain territory and for the final fifteen minutes of the game they heaped pressure onto the Omagh defence. Omagh held firm until there were five minutes remaining. Rainey scored from another pick and go series of drives with Simon Hawe getting the touchdown. The conversion was missed and Omagh nervously played out the remaining five minutes knowing that any mistake could cost them the game.
Thankfully, from an Omagh Academy perspective the final whistle sounded and the Academy boys held onto their lead to win the game by 17-12.
Ballymena Academy travelled to play a midweek game against Belfast High School. The game ended in a 17-17 draw with good performances for the Ballymena Academy team from Oliver Simpson, Brian Mulholland and Josh McIlroy. Jason Garford, Lewis Benson and Mark McBride all stood out with their performances for the Belfast High School team.
Wellington College travelled to play Ballyclare High School 2nd xv in a midweek fixture. The Wellington College team emerged as 45-15 winners in an exciting game. David Montgomery and Keir Patterson scored a brace of tries each for the Wellington team while 2nd Row, Ali Lavery, emerged with a “Man of the Match” award at the end of the game.
Regent House and Belfast Royal Academy played their game on Friday 23rd November. The Belfast Royal Academy team had to work hard for their 7-0 lead at the interval. Ryan Montgomery scored the only try of the first half with Max Oates adding the conversion.
The second half saw the Belfast Royal Academy team dominate possession as well as territory. Their enterprising approach yielded tries from Stephen Craig, Max Oates, Jordan Hylton and Jordan Carlisle. Not one of these tries was converted to leave the Belfast Royal Academy team finish the game as 27-0 winners.
Friends’ School, Lisburn and Bangor Grammar School met in a floodlit fixture at Lisburn Rugby Club on Friday evening. The Friends’ School team was missing a number of key players, including their high scoring No 8. Dean Howes, as well as their abrasive prop forward, Dylan Lewis.
However, these absences did not seem to affect their team mates who put on a great performance to win the game. The Bangor Grammar School team, having convincingly won their previous game at Royal School, Dungannon, thought they were on for a second successive win, something they have found difficult to achieve this season. The Friends’ team was slow to start and the Bangor Grammar School team scored an early unconverted try, through Max Montgomery, to give the visitors a 5-0 lead. Both teams attempted to move the ball at every opportunity but found the opposition defences to be well-organised. The only other score during the first period of play was a penalty from the Friends’ School captain, Ross Robinson, which ensured the Bangor Grammar School team went into the halftime break with a 5-3 lead.
The Friends’ School team raised the intensity of their game in the course of the second half and the Bangor Grammar School team struggled to stay in touch. Scrum half, Jack Ravey, asked questions of the Bangor Grammar School team with his pristine passing and game management skills.
Peter Ferguson cut through a reluctant Bangor Grammar School defence to touch down for a try, which was converted by Ross Robinson, to see the Lisburn team into a 10-5 lead midway through the second half. Scott Colligan then scored a fine individual try for the Friends’ School team. Peter Ferguson was successful with his conversion attempt to see the Friends’ team into a 17-5 lead. The Bangor Grammar School team had a late surge and got rewarded for their endeavours with a converted try. However, it was a case to “too little, too late” for the Bangor Grammar School team as it was the Friends’ School team that celebrated their well-deserved 17-12 victory at the no-side whistle. The “Man of the Match” Award went to the Friends’ School full back, Cameron McClements, for his commanding performance in both attack and defence throughout the game.
Both teams would like to thank the President and Committee of Lisburn Rugby Club for allowing the game to take place at their Eglantine Road facilities.
There were fewer than usual games played on Saturday 24th November. Methodist College hosted a Wallace High School team still weakened due to injury. The Methodist College team dominated proceedings in the first half and scored four excellent tries. Rudi Benade, Adam Liddell, Paddy Colhoun and Ross Kane all touched down for one try each. Josh Bingham was successful with three conversions to put his team into a 26-0 halftime lead.
The Wallace High School team raised their performance in the opening exchanges of the second half. They got reward for their endeavours with an unconverted try from Cal McIlwaine to reduce the arrears to 26-5. In the final quarter of the game both teams threatened to score but both defences held firm. Wallace High School did manage to convert a penalty opportunity through Ryan Moore to leave the Methodist College team as deserved 26-8 winners.
Dalriada School played Ballyclare High School at a frosty St James’ Road venue. The visitors dominated proceedings and came away with a 24-0 win. Michael Kirk, Paddy Reid and Jonny Darling all scored one try each. Jack Irvine completed the Ballyclare High School scoring with three successful conversions as well as converting a penalty opportunity.
Sullivan Upper and Campbell College played out a 10-10 draw on Saturday 24th November. The Campbell College team dominated the early exchanges but had only a Rob Haldane penalty to show for their first half endeavours.
Early in the second half the Sullivan team drew level when they converted a penalty opportunity though Mark Adair to take the score to 3-3. Campbell College then scored a fine individual try through Harry Howard. Rob Haldane added the conversion to put his team into a 10-3 lead. Just as time was running out the Sullivan team scored a fine try from Ross Todd which was converted my Mar Adair. The final score read 10-10 which was an appropriate outcome to a hard fought encounter.
Royal School, Armagh travelled to Dublin to play King’s Hospital School in Lucan. The King’s Hospital School team scored one converted try as well as an unconverted try in the first half to take a 12-0 lead. The RS Armagh team responded with a Toby McAlpine try which was converted by Ali Wright to give the home team a 12-7 halftime lead.
The King’s Hospital team scored two unconverted tries in the second half to open up a 22-7 lead. The RS Armagh team responded positively with tries from Matthew Hooks and Ali Wright. Ali converted his try to leave the scoreboard reading 22-19 in favour of the King’s Hospital team at the end of the game. The RS Armagh team, while disappointed to lose, had good performances from James Johnston, Toby McAlpine, John McDonagh and Michael Rolston.
Coleraine Academical Institution got back to winning ways when they entertained Royal School, Dungannon at the Castlerock Road venue. The Coleraine AI team was made to work hard by the Royal School, Dungannon team for their 36-12 win.
A number of games fell victim to the frosty conditions prevalent in some areas on Saturday morning. The Grosvenor Grammar School vs Banbridge Academy, Wellington College v Portadown College as well as Portora Royal School v Limavady Grammar School games were cancelled due to the frost.