Ulster Rugby Age Grade Round Up Week Ending Saturday 23rd August 2014. by Barney McGonigle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Ulster Rugby Age Grade Round Up Week Ending Saturday 23rd August 2014.

The Ulster U18 Clubs’, U17 and U18 Schools’, U19 and U20 squads have had a busy summer period working with their coaches, Strength and Conditioning mentors as well as the Elite Performance coaches from Ulster Rugby.

All the hard work on the training pitch transferred to the playing pitch when the respective squads recently played their first full games of the season in preparation for the forthcoming Inter Provincial series of game which will take place in September.

The U20’s started with a game against the Italian U20 squad on Monday 18th August. The Ulster team controlled proceedings in the first half with the Italian squad mounting something of a comeback in the second half. This entertaining game finished in an honourable 12-12 draw.

The U20 squad management team made thirteen changes to the starting XV when they took on an Exiles U20’s team at Newforge on Friday 22nd August. The Ulster team recorded an impressive result against a gallant Exiles team. Michael Cartmill, Stuart Martin, Sam Arnold, Conor Shiels and Caleb Montgomery all scored tries with Jack Milligan converting all the tries as well as being successful with two penalty kicks. This was an excellent performance with the Ulster U20 team displaying great skills in attack and excellent organisation in defence to keep a clean sheet. Both these U20 games will have shown the Management team the strength in depth there is in the squad and the entire squad can look forward with great confidence to the season ahead.

An Ulster Schools’ U7 squad travelled to Marr RFC in Troon to play a Glasgow Warriors U17 team. The weather conditions were conducive to running rugby with both teams displaying determination to play with the ball in hand.

Ulster started strongly but the Glasgow team was out to test the Ulster defence. The Ulster defence was resilient and ten minutes into the game the Ulster team won turnover ball. The resulting attack created an overlap which Ulster winger, Chris Jordan, finished when he ran in for the touchdown. Callum Smith converted the try to give the Ulster boys a 7-0 lead.

Glasgow upped their game after this and pressed hard to get points back. They might have got that crucial try on a number of occasions but the stout Ulster defence forced continual errors on the Glasgow handling.

Just before the interval the Ulster team forced another turnover and broke out of defence from inside their half using the blindside of the pitch to good effect. Good use of the ball ended with Ben Finlay running in for a try which was converted by Callum Smith to increase the Ulster Schools’ U17’s lead to 14-0.

In the second half the Ulster team came out with a strong intent to take advantage of their first half lead. The coaching advice at half time had been to continue what they were doing and make Glasgow chase the game. And chase they did. The Glasgow backs were strong and fast which, at times, stretched the strong Ulster defence. But Glasgow, time and again, were forced into making critical errors by the defensive smartness of the Ulster team. This ensured a continuous supply of turnover ball which the Ulster team used to good effect.

As the second half progressed the game was more and more in Ulster’s control. Following a lineout in the final few minutes of the game Ulster worked the ball through a number of phases creating space for James Hume to score the third try of the game. This try was converted by Callum Smith to give the Ulster Schools’ U17 team their 21-0 score line their dominance deserved against a very determined Glasgow Warriors U17 team.

The same day the Ulster Schools’ U18 squad travelled to play London Irish U18’s at Sunbury. This was another successful outing for an Ulster Age Grade team with the Schools’ U18’s recording a 20-7 victory.

Midway through the first half a great break from Zac Jordan paved the way for a Jonny McKeown try. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the Ulster Schools’ team had a 5-0 lead.

This became 10-0 some three minutes later when Philip Hylands finished off a flowing attack which started with a quickly taken tapped penalty from scrum half, Jonny Stewart. Again, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

Just before the half time whistle the Ulster lead increased to 13-0 when Robert Lyttle was successful with a penalty kick opportunity.

Both teams made a number of changes after the interval but this did not upset the Ulster team patterns of play. They increased their lead to 20-0 when, fifteen minutes into the second half, Conor Field displayed power, pace and panache when he won the chase for the touchdown following a clever grubber kick ahead. This try was converted by Robert Lyttle.

Four minutes later the London Irish team got some reward for their endeavours throughout the game when they scored a converted try following a 5m penalty awarded against the Ulster team to leave the Ulster Schools’ team delighted with their 20-7 win.

The Ulster U18 Clubs squad had their first run out of the season when they hosted the Exiles U18 squad at Newforge on Saturday 23rd August. The Exiles team had the benefit of a midweek game against the Connacht U18 team and this proved to be a decisive factor in the eventual outcome of this game which the Exiles U18 team won by 15-9.

That afternoon the Ulster U19 team played an Exiles U19 team that lost narrowly in a midweek game against their Connacht counterparts.

In the first quarter of the game the Exiles showed some of the pace their back line had. Ulster had to defend strongly soaking up wave after wave of Exiles attacks. Eventually the Exiles team got their just reward when they ran in for an unconverted try to give them a 5-0 lead midway through the first half.

Two minutes later the Ulster team started to show their hard work all summer on structure and patterns was worthwhile. They broke out up field and, with some excellent support play and handling, caused the Exiles to give away a penalty. Gareth Millar converted the penalty opportunity to reduce the arrears to 5-3 and bring Ulster back into the game.

However, the Exiles were not fazed by this set back and they began to push again. The game was being played at a great tempo as both sides tried to work the space they needed to get that next score. The Exiles get close to Ulster’s line forcing a penalty which was missed.

Just before half time the Exiles broke out following an Ulster mistake and it took a try saving tackle by full back, Jonny Betts, to stop the Exiles increasing their lead. Unfortunately, from an Ulster perspective, the referee decided to Yellow Card an Ulster player.

However, this seemed to spur the Ulster players on and they fought hard in defence and attack. The team got reward for their hard work with the last play of the first half when Zack Bertenshaw took a clever pass to score out wide. The conversion was missed but Ulster went into the break with an 8-5 lead.

The second half started much the same as the first half with the Exiles pressing hard to get the score they needed. They came close on a few occasions but found the Ulster defence to be giving very little away.

Eventually, it was Ulster who struck first blood of the second half with a third score. This came from a break out of defence and a kick down field. The kick was chased and recovered by the Exiles but, while attempting a clearance kick, the Ulster full back charged the ball down. This enabled Matthew Fisher to win the chase and score a try beside the posts. Gareth Millar converted the try to put the Ulster team into a 15-5 lead.

The Exiles again upped their game and their strong running backs caused trouble for the Ulster defenders. This fast running game paid off with the Exiles running in for their second try of the game. However, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the arrears had been reduced to 15-10.

At the final whistle it was a relieved Ulster U19 that celebrated their hard earned 15-10 victory against a very talented Exiles U19 team.

There are three further games due to be played by Ulster Age Grade teams in the coming week.

On Thursday 28th the U20’s will travel to play London Irish U20’s at Sunbury and the U19’s will travel to play North Wales IU19’s at Ruthin RFC.

On Friday 29th the Ulster Schools’ U18’s will travel to play their Glasgow counterparts at Marr RFC in Troon.

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