Virginia RFC U14s Win Ulster Cup
2nd Half Comeback Clinches Historic League & Cup Double
Virginia RFC 17 Carrickfergus RFC 10
Virginia RFC U14s created their own little bit of history on Saturday. Following on from retaining their League title in March, they travelled to the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast in search of an elusive “double” triumph. Ravenhill wasn’t benefiting from the supposed heatwave, so they lined out against Carrickfergus RFC in testing wet conditions, and having shared the results this season in two previous encounters, knew they were in for a tough day.
So it was to prove as Carrick flew at Virginia from the kick-off, spending the first three quarters of the half camped in their territory. Despite some resolute defence they soon found themselves behind when the Carrick captain Matthew Robinson evaded some despairing tackles to give the Antrim team a 5-0 lead. Virginia finally managed to put some attacking plays together, but a break from the lightning wing of Carrick soon put the pressure back on, and a chip was collected by Thomas Morrison to double the Carrick lead. From the restart Virginia where again put under pressure, but its often said that key moments turn matches, and two such moments were coming. Firstly Carrick again pressed the try-line, and another score would surely of put the game beyond the Cavan men, but some resolute defending, culminating with the ball being held up over the line by Robert Lochaden, Jake Sullivan and Killian Collins kept them out. Virginia cleared their lines and began to build their way into the game. Having finally established some meaningful possession they looked to cut the deficit. Virginia captain Cai Walker, and prop John Smyth led the way with line break after line break pushing the Carrick men back into their own twenty-two. Even when Carrick had the ball the pressure in defence from Adam Charters, Paddy Gordon and Niall Carolan forced them into errors, and the one clean break they made was dealt with brilliantly by David Gibney at full back. As the half drew to a close the Carrick defence were sucked in, and Virginia quickly went wide with Conor Nulty spotting the space and scoring in the corner, cutting the lead at the break to 10-5.
The second half would be a wholly different affair. Carrick seemed to set out to defend their lead rather than extend it, and the momentum change at the end of the second half was built on by Virginia. Establishing themselves firmly in the Carrick half they pressed their try-line. Jason Henderson at scrum-half kept the tempo at a relentless rate and the forwards bore down on their opponents. Michael McKeon-Boyle supporting one such move snatched his opportunity and powered his way over by the posts to level the scores, Aaron Mannion capping a fine performance by keeping his cool to slot the conversion and give Virginia the lead for the first time. The next score was vital, and credit to Carrick, they upped their game to try and retake the lead. Adrian Lynch though was a colossus in defence and broke up anything that come down the middle, and when Carrick went wide both Paddy and Cai put in some last ditch tackles to keep them out. As the half drew on Virginia again established good field position, and after some sustained pressure Jamie Osbourne forced his way through a tiring defence to touchdown and give them a seven point lead. With time running out Carrick again attacked, but a vital turnover from Conor, and a scrum won by Adrian saw the referee blow for time, and the celebrations begin as Virginia won the Ulster Cup 17-10.
Mention must go to the squad of Ryan McGuigan, Callum Finane, Mark Gibney, John Dolan, Adam Sherriff, Ryan Kennedy, and Jack Vaughan who have all payed their part in getting the team to this position. Credit also to the rest of the U14s, especially Thomas Sheridan, Callum Caswell and James Smith for their contributions this season.