Ulster Rugby U18 Schools Retain Atkins Trophy: Lancashire Rugby U18 I XV – 9 Ulster Rugby U18 XV Schools – 9 & Ulster Rugby U18 Schools score five tries against Yorkshire Rugby U18 ~ Yorkshire Rugby U18 I XV – 10 Ulster Rugby U18 Schools I XV – 34

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Lancashire U18 – 9 Ulster U18 Schools – 9

The Ulster U18 Schools side commenced their competitive season on Thursday 11th August with a fixture against Lancashire U18 at Preston Grasshoppers.

The team had traveled by boat to Stranraer early on Thursday and then to Preston by coach. Heavy rain meant that the match had to be switched to one of the other pitches at Preston Grasshoppers due to standing water on the main pitch due to heavy rain but was still played on a perfect surface. However the damp ball and some drizzle during the match resulted in an increase in the number of handling errors that two teams playing their first match of the season would normally make.

Ulster Schools took the lead in the match after 5 minutes when out half Justin Rea kicked a 30m penalty when Lancashire were penalised for not releasing in the tackle. A similar penalty opportunity after 11 minutes when Lancashire were caught off side was missed but Ulster Schools doubled their lead with a second successful Justin Rea penalty when Lancashire were penalised for hands in a ruck after 15 minutes.

Ulster Schools had territorial advantage for the first quarter of the game producing some good handling moves but Lancashire came back to into the game in the second quarter. A 15th minute penalty by the Lancashire out-half Alistair Addy, who played for England U16’s last season reduced the deficit as Ulster Schools were caught off side. The teams were level after 31 minutes when Ulster Schools were penalised for collapsing a scrum with Alistair Addy again kicking the points. On the stroke of half time Lancashire had an opportunity to take the lead for the first time when Ulster Schools were penalised for hands in a ruck but the 40m kick was wide.

The third quarter was evenly balanced but then Lancashire took the lead with Alistair Addy’s third penalty on 17 minutes when Ulster Schools were caught off side but the teams were level again just two minutes later when Justin Rea added his third penalty when Lancashire were penalised for hands in a scrum.

With 5 minutes remaining a strong attack took Ulster Schools within inches of the Lancashire line but they were unable to secure the try which may have given them victory.

The game was a typical early season encounter with numerous breakdowns in play and a general lack of flowing rugby from both sides but proved to be a very worthwhile first outing for both teams as they prepare for competitive fixtures later in the season.

At the after match function Mr John Wilson, Chairman of the Ulster Schools Committee presented Ulster Schools ties to those players who had earned their first cap in this fixture. The Lancashire County President Tommy Hughes presented the Atkins trophy to the two captains Tom Whitton (Lancashire U18) and Jack Cooke (Ulster Schools) but the trophy was retained by Ulster Schools as they were the previous holders.

Gratitude is expressed to Lancashire U18 manager, Howard Hughes for his help with all the arrangements for the fixtures and to Preston Grasshoppers RFC for hosting the fixture and preparing an excellent after match meal.

Ulster Schools team v Lancashire U18
15. Rob Haldane (Campbell College)
14. Neil Burns (Foyle & L’Derry College)
13. Nathan Brown (RBAI)
12. Mark Best (Campbell College)
11. John McClure (RBAI)
10. Justin Rea (Down HS)
9. Conor Wright (RS Armagh)
1. Michael Hoey (RS Armagh)
2. Adam Kerr (Ballyemna Academy)
3. Sebastien McBrien (Campbell College)
4. Jonny Darling (Ballyclare HS)
5. Jack Cooke (Captain, Campbell College)
6. Ben Alexander (RBAI)
7. Daniel Dass (BRA)
8. Paddy Anderson (RBAI)

David Busby (Portadown College) for Mark Best (half time)
Cal McIlwaine (Wallace HS) for Jack Cooke (half time)
Jonny Craig (Ballyclare HS) for Michael Hoey (48)
Ross Kane (Methodist College) for Sebastien McBrien (48)
David Marshall (Wellington College) for Daniel Dass (48)
Max Montgomery (Bangor GS) for Adam Kerr (48)
Peter Weir (Wallace HS) for Conor Wright (58)
Alistair Wright (RS Armagh) for Justin Rea (58)
Jordan Grattan (Wallace HS) for Nathan Brown (61)
Marc Campbell (Methodist College) for Paddy Anderson (65)
Michael Dawson (Rainey ES) Ben Alexander (65)

Ulster U18 Schools score five tries against Yorkshire U18

Yorkshire U18 – 10 Ulster U18 Schools – 34

Ulster Schools played Yorkshire U18s at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield on Saturday 13th August in the second match of their short tour to England. The pitch was again in excellent condition but in a sharp contrast to the first game of the tour, conditions were dry with sunny intervals with little to no wind, excellent conditions for good handling and eventually that’s what the match produced.

Ulster Schools were wide with a penalty after 6 minutes but Ross Adair gave the touring team the lead after 11 minutes as Yorkshire conceded their 6th penalty. Each team had attacking moves for a period of time but none resulted in tries. Yorkshire out half, Guy Watkinson leveled the scores after 26 minutes when Ulster Schools were penalised for a binding violation at a scrum.

Ulster Schools responded almost from the restart when a Yorkshire clearance kick was collected by the captain for the match, Ben Alexander, who had a strong run down the left which was carried on by Jordan Grattan who fed David Busby who crossed for an unconverted try.

David Busby continued to featured strongly in the game for the next few minutes as he turned over ball by ripping it from one of the Yorkshire forwards on his own 22 m line but Yorkshire counter attacked from the clearance kick which resulted in a try for hooker Josh Greenfield on the left hand side with Guy Watkinson adding the conversion to give the hosts a 10 – 8 lead at the interval.

In the second half Ulster School gradually gained ascendancy in the exchanges and regained the lead after 13 minutes when good work by Neil Burns and Jordan Gratton set up a Ross Adair break who in turn fed winger David Busby who scored his second try of the game. Ross Adair added the conversion. Five minutes later, the pack recycled the ball several times before releasing the back line which resulted in a score for Nathan Browne in the right corner with Ross Adair adding the difficult conversion.

The Ulster Schools pack were now in control and when a penalty was kicked to the corner after 25 minutes for the lineout option, Paddy Anderson rose high to take the catch and the pack drove to the line and although they were halted short of the line David Marshall broke clear for an unconverted try to see the visitors lead 27 – 10.

A charge down by Mark Best almost created a score for Nathan Browne and then Yorkshire were reduced to 14 players through a dismissal. Deep in injury time another lineout was caught and driven 25 metres and on this occasion the pack were unstoppable with hooker Adam Kerr making the touchdown. Ross Adair completed the scoring with the conversion from the left side of the pitch.

This was another very good fixture for the Ulster Schools side as they prepare for the Inter Provincial series. Thanks are expressed to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for hosting the fixture and preparing an excellent meal afterwards and also to Yorkshire U18s manager Abdy Rickard for his help in organising the fixture.

The short tour proved to be very worthwhile with the players having greater opportunities to integrate more fully both on and off the pitch. Hopefully we will see both Lancashire and Yorkshire visit Ulster next summer so that the relationships that have been formed over many years can be continued. Thanks are also due to those parents who were able to travel to support the team and their presence was much appreciated.

Ulster Schools have two further warm up matches against the Ulster U18 Clubs at Dungannon FC and Ulster U19s at UUJ on Saturday 20th August and Saturday 27th August respectively.

The first Inter Provincial match will be against Connacht on Wednesday 7th September at Dungannon FC with a 2.00pm kick off.

Ulster Schools team v Yorkshire U18
15. Neil Burns (Foyle & L’Derry College)
14. Ross Adair (Sullivan Upper)
13. John McClure (RBAI)
12. Jordan Grattan (Wallace HS)
11. David Busby (Portadown College)
10. Alistair Wright (RS Armagh)
9. Peter Weir (Wallace HS)
1. Jonny Craig (Ballyclare HS)
2. Max Montgomery (Bangor Grammar)
3. Ross Kane (Methodist College)
4. Marc Campbell (Methodist College)
5. Ben Alexander (Captain, RBAI)
6. David Marshall (Wellington College)
7. Cal McIlwaine (Wallace HS)
8. Michael Dawson (Rainey ES)

Paddy Anderson (RBAI) for Michael Dawson (half time)
Adam Kerr (Ballyemna Academy) for Max Montgomery (half time)
Sebastien McBrien (Campbell College) for Ross Kane (half time)
Jack Cooke (Campbell College) Ben Alexander (half time)
Daniel Dass (BRA) for Cal McIlwaine (half time)
Conor Wright (RS Armagh) for Peter Weir (half time)
Mark Best (Campbell College) for Jordan Grattan (49)
Nathan Brown (RBAI) for J McClure (49)
Justin Rea (Down HS) for Alistair Wright (49)
Jonny Darling (Ballyclare HS) for Mark Campbell (54)
Ross Kane (Methodist College) for Jonny Craig (54)
Rob Haldane (Campbell College)
Michael Hoey (RS Armagh)

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