Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Rugby Round Up 5th Sept 2015 by Barney McGonigle

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Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Round Up Saturday 5th September 2015
There were some Ulster Age Grade Interpros played in the lead up to a number of schoolboy fixtures played on Saturday 5th September.
The Ulster U20 team played out a close encounter with their Munster counterparts at the Queen’s Arena on the evening of Friday 4th September. In a game that could have easily gone either way it was a relieved Munster team that emerged as 18-17 winners at the no-side whistle. The Munster team took a 3-0 lead when their full back, David O’Mahony, converted a penalty opportunity with just four minutes on the clock. The game ebbed and flowed with both teams attempting to play positively with the ball in hand. However, the Ulster team was guilty of giving away too many penalties at critical times which relieved any pressure they were managing to build up against the dogged Munster team. In fact it was the visitors that extended their lead to 8-0 when David O’Mahony touched down for an unconverted try close to half time. This spurred the Ulster team into action and Conor Kelly reduced the arrears to 8-5 when he finished off a flowing Ulster attack with an unconverted try just on the half time whistle.


In an evenly contested second half the Munster team increased their lead to 15-5 when their impressive No 8, John Foley, took advantage of a well driven rolling maul to touch down for the try. David O’Mahony added the extras to give the Munster team a more comfortable lead in the third quarter of the game. Ulster the started to control more of the set piece play in the game and were rewarded with a try from Lewis McNamara when he got the touchdown following good work at an Ulster lineout. Andrew McGrath, who had performed impressively for the duration of the game, added the conversion to reduce the deficit to 15-12. Unfortunately from the restart the Ulster team was penalised and Bill Johnston stepped up to convert the penalty and increase the Munster lead to 18-12 with eight minutes remaining. The Ulster team stormed back into the Munster half and, following a series of plays, a well organised driven maul ended with Matthew Fisher touching down for an unconverted try for the “Men in White” and leave the Munster team with an 18-17 lead in the final minutes of the game. Back came the Ulster team with a determined approach and when Andrew Magrath hit a superbly struck dropped goal with the final play of the game the Munster hearts were in the their mouths. The ball hit the upright, bounced off the cross bar, hit the other upright and bounced back into the field of play! It was a relieved Munster team that cleared the ball into touch and, when the referee blew for full time, it was the Munster team that celebrated their hard earned 18-17 victory.
On Saturday 5th September there was almost something of a “deja vue” scenario when the Ulster U19 team met the Munster U19 team, once again at the superb Queen’s Arena complex. The visitors took a 5-0 lead when Sean Ives took advantage of hesitancy in the Ulster defence to touch down for an unconverted try with less than a minute on the clock. Ten minutes later the Ulster team reduced the deficit to 5-3 when Gareth Millar was successful with a penalty opportunity following a Munster infringement. Both teams contested the game strongly but there were no further points scored until just before the break when Conor Fitzgerald ran in for a try, which he converted, to give the Munster team a 12-3 lead at the interval.
The Munster team started the second half as they had started the first! With less than a minute on the clock their captain, Alex McHenry, scored an unconverted try to increase the Munster U19 lead to 17-3. Despite this setback the Ulster team mounted something of a comeback and started to take control of the game. Andrew McPhillips was on the end of a flowing backline attack to finish off with an unconverted try and peg the scoreboard back to 17-8 midway through the second period of play. Both teams made a series of changes and towards the end of the game it was one of these replacement players, Daniel Coulter, that took advantage of good work from his pack to score an unconverted try for the Ulster team. With the score now reading 17-13 in favour of Munster, and little time left, the Ulster team laid siege on the Munster line. Marcus Rea, Jonny McKeown, Zac Jordan, Callum McLoughlin and Josh Jordan all asked questions of the Munster defence but they could find no way through. It was a much relieved Munster team that celebrated their victory when the no-side whistle sounded.


Both the Ulster teams will take a lot of positives from their performances in these games as they prepare to travel to Galway for the second series of their Inter Pro games on the 11th and 12th September when they play Connacht. The U20’s will play Connacht at 5-00pm on Friday 11th September at the Sportsground in Galway while the U19’s will play at the same venue against Connacht at 2-30pm on Saturday 12th September.
The Ulster Club’s U18 team put on a very positive performance when they entertained the very experienced Connacht U18 team at Hatrick Park, home of Rainey RFC, on Saturday 5th September. However, it was the experience of the Connacht team that carried them through this game when the visitors recorded a 15-8 victory.
With Connacht withdrawing from the Schools’ Inter Pro series the Ulster Schools’ team found themselves without a game on Saturday 5th. Instead the squad had a training session with the coaching staff in preparation for the first Inter Pro game against Leinster Schools’ on Saturday 12th September at Belfast Harlequins RFC. The Leinster Schools’ team defeated Munster Schools’ by 25-16 when the teams met in Dublin on Saturday 5th September. Support would be welcomed for the Ulster Schools’ team at Belfast Harlequin’s RFC on Saturday 12th.
Despite having players unavailable due to the age grade Inter Provincial, quote a few schools managed to get their first games of the season played on Saturday 5th September. Both the Royal School, Armagh and Coleraine Grammar School teams were missing players when the teams met in the Cathedral City. The home team won the game by 19-15 with the RS Armagh points coming from two Chris Jennings tries and one try from Glenn Faloon. William Hazelton added two conversions. Chris Jennings picked up the “Man of the Match” award. The Coleraine Grammar School team put on a very workmanlike performance and scored two tries through use of their “Davy the Governor” move. David Greatorex and Conor Skuce scored these tries with their third try coming from a flowing backline attack which was finished by Daniel McCreadie . One striking feature of the game was the RS Armagh defence which was particularly strong in the first half of the game.


The Ballymena Academy team was missing quite a few players away on Inter Pro duty. Despite this, the young men who stood in all played well when the team travelled to play Ballyclare High School and recorded a 38-10 win.
Ballymena Academy enjoyed the better of the opening minutes and took the lead when scrum half, Conor Cosgrove, accelerated through a gap to finish below the posts. Bruce Houston added the conversion for a 7-0 lead. Moments later the Ballymena pack set up a dynamic maul from a five metre lineout and James McClean was on hand to touch down. Bruce Houston made no mistake with the conversion for a 14-0 lead. Ballyclare High then enjoyed a period of pressure and scored a try from a maul following a lineout. Ballymena reinforced their dominance before half-time when Conor Gallagher showed pace to finish in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful and the whistle sounded with Ballymena 19–5 ahead.
Following several minutes of sustained pressure on the Ballymena line, Ballyclare scored the first try of the second period but the conversion was unsuccessful leaving the score reading 19-10 in favour of the visitors. Both teams made a number of changes but this didn’t seem to affect the momentum of the away team as Ballymena ran in three more tries before the final whistle. Matthew Moody, Ballymena’s captain for the day, powered his way over from close range and, shortly afterwards, some slick back play culminated in Tiernan Martin racing clear to score in the corner. Bruce Houston was successful with one of the conversions to give Ballymena a 31-10 lead. In the closing minutes Louis McGuckian reacted brilliantly to a loose ball and off-loaded to centre, Mark Thompson, who sprinted home from fifty metres. Bruce Houston’s conversion left the final score reading 38-10 to Ballymena Academy.
The Royal School, Dungannon team got their season off to a good start with a strong performance which saw them defeat a spirited Limavady Grammar School team by 15-3. This game was played over two twenty minute sessions with one final thirty minute session. Josh Fegan and Patrick Foster touched down for RS Dungannon tries in the first session to give their team a 10-0 lead. Aaron Perry scored a fine individual effort in the course of the second session to increase the RS Dungannon lead to 15-0. In the third session the fitness levels of the RS Dungannon team were tested with the Limavady team prepared to move the ball at every opportunity. However, they restricted the Limavady team to just one penalty leaving the Royal School, Dungannon team as 15-3 winners.


Carrickfergus Grammar School hosted Friends’ School, Lisburn and Antrim Grammar School in a three team tournament in Antrim. The Friends’ School team recorded a 7-0 win against the host team and went on to defeat the Carrickfergus GS team by 17-7.

Omagh Academy hosted a four team tournament featuring Foyle and Londonderry College, Portora Royal School, Sullivan Upper School alongside the host school. Each team used extended squads and played three twenty minute games. Omagh opened up with a 15-0 win against the Foyle College team with tries coming from Matthew Clyde, who touched down twice, and Andrew Newell. The Omagh team then played Sullivan Upper in a game which, despite the positive intentions of all the players involved, saw both defences come out on top and finished as a 0-0 draw. Next up for the home team was the Portora RS team and it was the opportunity for a number of young players such as Glenn McKinley, Troy Booth, Jordan Brolly, Taine Lagan and Scott Ballantine to impress. However, it was left to the experienced Matthew Clyde to score the only Omagh Academy try of this game. The Portora RS team, having drawn 0-0 with Sullivan Upper and lost by 5-0 against Foyle College, secured a 7-5 against the Omagh team in the final game when Conor Keys touched down for a try which he then converted. All four teams thoroughly enjoyed the tournament and would like to thank Ross Hunter and his staff at Omagh Academy for organising the event.


Grosvenor Grammar School hosted a six team tournament for the Ian H Graham Cup. The tournament was won for the fourth consecutive season by Wesley College from Dublin with teams from Belfast Royal Academy, Rainey Endowed School, Banbridge Academy and King’s School, Bruton from Bath completing the line-up. The tournament was split into two groups of three with Banbridge Academy, Wesley College and Belfast Royal Academy contesting one group and Grosvenor Grammar School, King’s School, Bruton and Rainey Endowed contesting the other. Wesley College and King’s School, Bruton won their sections and contested the final which the Wesley team won by three scores to nil. The Grosvenor GS team contested the third/fourth play- off against the team from Belfast Royal Academy in game the host school won by four scores to one. In the fifth/sixth play-off the game involving Rainey Endowed School and Banbridge Academy finished in a 5-5 draw.
Players who impressed for the Grosvenor Grammar School team included Mark Johnston, Daniel Martin, Thomas Quinn, Chris Allen, Josh McConkey and Ben Davis. For the Rainey Endowed School team Neal Hastings, Nathan Lennox and Gregory Conway impressed with their ability on the ball. Team captain, Michael McGaffin led the Banbridge Academy team with great aplomb and got through a lot of work in the three matches his team played.
At the post-match reception, Mr Ian H Graham, former member of King’s Scholar’s RFC, former Director of Physical Education and Movement Studies at Grosvenor Grammar School and former President of the Ulster Branch, IRFU, presented the Ian H Graham Trophy to the victorious Wesley College team.


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