A SUPERB TOUR BY DROMORE HIGH SCHOOL: A Joint Rugby / Hockey Tour to Holland.

The only Ulster Rugby team to play over the weekend of 8th/9th December 2010
Dromore High School did manage to escape on tour prior to the onset of the inclement weather with their U15 and U16 teams going on a joint rugby/hockey tour to Holland. The U16 & U15 rugby squads from Dromore High School embarked on their second tour in the last three years, this time basing themselves in Noordwijk. This five day tour followed on from the highly successful Spain trip in 2008, when the two teams remained undefeated against age grade teams from Sant Cugat and St Boiana, on the outskirts of Barcelona. On this occasion, Northern Europe and the Dutch lowlands was to be the destination, not only for the boys but also the school’s U16 girls hockey team.

An early departure on the Saturday 20th Nov saw the tour party arrive at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and head straight to the Amsterdam Arena, home of Dutch football legends, Ajax FC. The entire tour party went for a tour around the magnificent stadium and museum. Over the next three days the real work took place with matches against Amstelveen RC, Hilversum RC in addition to a training session at their accommodation in Noordwijk on the Dutch coast.
The first matches were played against Amstelveen RC, hailing from just north of Den Haag (The Hague). The U15s, with the majority of the school Medallion team available, kicked off the ‘business end’ of the tour with a fine win, against Amstelveen U15s, on a heavy pitch.

Although naturally a little rusty in the first half, the boys racked up what was to be the biggest win of either team on the tour (69-0). Peter Ireland top scored with 18points scoring two tries and experiencing success with four conversions. The remainder of the 11 tries were spread amongst eight other players – backs and forwards. The main strength of the U15s was undoubtedly the powerful runs by the forwards as Dromore dominated the opposition pack in all facets of play. Once this damage was done, the backs cut loose in the second period. The U16s played against an U17 team in their match and due to the slight age difference had to work much harder to break down the Amstelveen team. Again, hard work put in early in the match and Dromore’s ability to execute patterns of play told in the second half. Forwards such as Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Sleator and Luke Curlett impressed with Ryan Cobb and Matthew McDonald showing up well in the backs. The hosts at Amstelveen were most impressed with the standard of rugby adding that the Dromore High School teams were the first touring teams to have defeated both home sides.

Amstelveen Rugby Club U15 0 Dromore High School U15 69
Tries – Peter Ireland (2), David Martin (2), Richard Pickering, Ben Lloyd, Jason Mackey, Timothy Martin, Isaac Barr, Peter Bothwell, Christopher Gibson
Cons –Peter Ireland (4), Stuart Fee (2), Nathan Connery
Amstelveen Rugby Club U17 0 Dromore High School U16 41
Tries – Dylan Linton (2), Grant Dillon, Matthew Rowan, Jonathan Andrews, Jason Gribbon, Matthew McDonald
Con –Ryan Cobb (3)

After some sightseeing in Amsterdam, the boys ‘enjoyed’ a training session that would hopefully aid the recovery process before the second pair of matches. On a short tour, the second match can prove difficult to put out full-strength sides with so little time between matches. Added to this was a potentially harder task waiting at Hilversum – particularly for the U17 team. Once again the U15 forwards laid the foundation for the win with some barnstorming runs by most members of the pack, in particular Peter Ireland, Johnny Rosbotham, & Stuart Walker – the backs, organised by Jason Mackey and Stuart Fee, moved the ball well and scored some impressive tries from the midfield areas.

Although Hilversum threatened to breach the Dromore line late in the game(for what would have been the first time on tour), defensive pride ensured this was not to be the case as the team ran out comfortable winners by 56-0. The most anticipated match of the tour was undoubtedly the contest against Hilversum U17s. This was a team that had been unbeaten all season, winning easily against Amstelveen, and destined to become Dutch U17 champions. In a very physical and fast-paced encounter, Dromore took an early lead after their captain, Jonathan Andrews, drove over for the first try of the game. This seemed to take the host team by surprise, having conquered all before them domestically.

Led by a very powerful number eight, Hilversum conceded again as a line-out ‘catch and drive’ resulted in a trademark James Sloan try who capitalised on good work by his forwards. This try was converted by Ryan Cobb. Dromore were pegged back as the larger Hilversum team scored either side of half-time to tie the score at 12-12 early in the second half. The first three quarters of the contest almost seemed like a precursor to the main show as the match entered the final explosive quarter. With Dromore attacking the Hilversum line, penalties were conceded in an attempt to keep out the inevitable Co Down tide. After a couple of ‘catch & drives’ were illegally stopped, the Hilversum No.8 took exception to being rucked off the ball. At the next play, a Dromore penalty which was tapped, the Hilversum player took out Jonathan Andrews dangerously late after Jonathan had passed the ball.

The referee took the only decision he could have and bravely yellow-carded the home captain, effectively reducing Hilversum to 14-men for the rest of the match. In an emotionally-charged passage of play, Dromore seized the obvious numerical advantage to wrap up the match with scores from James Sloan and Jonathan Andrews – with a second conversion by Ryan Cobb leaving the score at 24-12. This was a well- deserved win for the Co Down team against the worthiest of opponents. At the final whistle, as rugby should be, all hostilities dissipated in a sea of handshakes and mutual respect as both sides realised that they had been part of a fantastic match. The tour concluded with the squad returning home on Wednesday 24th November after what was an enjoyable and ultimately successful trip to Holland – Dromore HS have again completed a European tour unbowed and unbeaten.

Hilversum Rugby Club U15 0 Dromore High School U15 56
Tries –Peter Bothwell (3), S Walker (2), Lee Geddis (2), Jason Mackey, Christopher Gibson, Nathan Connery
Con –Stuart Fee (3)
Hilversum Rugby Club U17 12 Dromore High School U16 24
Tries – Jonathan Andrews (2), James Sloan (2)
Con – Ryan Cobb (2)
It is a measure of the overall quality of the squad that 19 different players scored the 32 tries (a further two boys also kicked conversions). Top try-scorer was Peter Bothwell with four tries in the two games.
The entire Dromore High School tour squad would like to thank the Principal of Dromore High School, Mr John Wilkinson, the Governors of Dromore High School and the parents/guardians of the players for their support of the tour. Thanks are also due to David Geddis & Sons Contractors, as well as McLernon’s, for their kind sponsorship of the playing jerseys worn on tour. A special word of thanks goes from all the players to Mr Jacques Benade and Mr Alan Kirk, from the Physical Education Department in Dromore High School, for all their hard work, commitment and energy in the organisation of the tour. The players from both squads will hope to recognise the expertise provided by the staff with their performances in the forthcoming Northern Bank U16 High Schools’ Cup competition as well as the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Medallion Shield competition.

Dromore High School U15/U16Tour Squad to Holland:
Jonathan Andrews, Isaac Barr, Peter Bothwell, David Cantley, Ryan Cobb, Nathan Connery, Peter Cowan, Aaron Crawford, Luke Curlett, Grant Dillon, Stuart Fee, Alan Gardner, Lee Geddis, Christopher Gibson, Jason Gribbon, Sam Hughes, Peter Ireland, Ryan Jackson, Dale Johnston, Dylan Linton, Ben Lloyd, Jason Mackey, Andrew Martin, David Martin, Thomas Martin, Matthew McDonald, Mark McLernon, Richard Pickering, Kristen Potts-Hamilton, Jonathan Rosbotham, Matthew Rowan, David Savage, Timothy Savage, Andrew Sleator, James Sloan, Matthew Walker, Stuart Walker.