A bumper derby crowd turned out to back Banbridge Academy and Dromore High School - with the students serving up a tough tussle that finished honours even at 8-8.
Dromore High’s senior side took part in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup - the second oldest rugby competition in the world - for the first time and produced a positive start.
Dromore High came close to scoring but fullback Ben Martin was unable to retain possession, with the next 20 minutes hard-fought play given the high stakes and derby plaudits.
Intelligent kicking from Rhys Dale and Reuben Cobb helped Dromore High dominate territory before captain Martin made his mark with the opening points of the fixture, courtesty of a penalty to cap sustained pressure.
Banbridge Academy responded with plenty of the ball but entered the interval unable to regain level terms.
The hosts held the upper hand over the second half in terms of both territory and possession.
Early encouragement produced an end product when industrious hooker Timmy Beattie scrambled over the corner to touch down for an unconverted try and push Academy into a 5-3 advantage.
It was 8-3 within minutes thanks to Ross Cartmill’s penalty at the end of another period on top by Academy.
Aaron Atkinson’s kick off, with seven minutes left on the clock, led to a Dromore scrum and slick play by the backline opened up space out wide towards securing a penalty.
Cobb went for the corner from the lineout, with the excellent Richard Dickson and Aaron Lyttle linking up for the latter to score.
A squandered conversion from the tight angle left the sides at 8-8.
Academy almost added a decisive late penalty but the kick drifted just wide to set up a second Schools’ Cup clash between the two rivals.
The sides will clash again on Wednesday, January 11 at Dromore Rugby Club from 2 o’clock.