VIRGINIA RFC Champions of Ulster Virginia RFC U14s secure Ulster title
Virginia RFC U14s today secured the Ulster League Title with a thrilling win over Malone RFC of Belfast. The previous Saturday they had been sent packing out of the Cup by the same opposition, and they were determined to set the record straight by winning the League Final.
It was a great morning for rugby with still and warm conditions at the Mid Ulster Sports Complex in Cookstown. Virginia fell under pressure right from the start, but where last week they had conceded early, this week their defence held firm. Great tackling by Cai Walker and Rioghan Smith broke up Malones early efforts, and before long they had worked their way into the Malone half. All season Virginias scrum had been dominant, and today was no exception. The front row of Evan Charters, Ronan McKeown, and Aaron Hawthorne srummaged brilliantly, allowing Daniel McConnan at scrum half to get the ball wide effectively. Adam Charters and Aaron Kierans chose wisely when to spin the ball wide, but still an excellent Malone defence kept Virginia at bay. In the end it took a mazy run from wing Martin O’Connell, cutting back inside to break the deadlock and score under the posts. He also converted to make the score 7-0. The Cavan side now had their tails up, and the pressure eventually told out wide. A superb dummy from Niall Carolan got him past his marker, and allowed him to put Jamie Davidson in space. Jamie needed no second invitation and powered into the corner to take the lead out to 12-0 right on half time.
Virginia started the second half as they finished the first. They were now securing ball at the breakdown with Ryan Shiels and Luke Brodie being particularly effective. A powerful run by Nial Preston broke through the Malone defence, and again the backs quickly put the ball wide, this time ending with Martin scoring his second try, his subsequent conversion giving them a 19-0 lead. As was proved last week though, Malone were a quality outfit. With 15 minutes of the game left they really upped their intensity and fought their way back into the game. Desperate defence by Virginia held them at bay, but finally their lines were broken and Malone were just 12 points behind. Waves of Malone attacks were now bearing down on the Virginia lines. Even when they managed to break out to attack, Virginia were almost caught by an intercept try. A brilliant last ditch tackle by full back Luke Tierney who had been excellent throughout, again stopped Malone in their tracks, but was to be the last part he played. Jamie dropped back to No 15 and Mark McSherry was introduced on the wing. Rioghan took a knock to the back, so Luke was moved back to No 8 with Adrian Lynch coming into the second row, both replacements playing their part in keeping their try line secure. Captain Nial Preston prowled his way through his team at every opportunity, encouraging them to hold firm, and at the final whistle Virginia had held on to win the League title 19-7.
Credit to the replacements and reserves who didn’t get on today, John Smith, Niall Branagan, Adam Sherriff, Cian Doughty, Conor Hetherton, Ibykan Ajetummobi, Michael McKeon-Boyle, and Jason Henderson, and to the extended squad who didn’t travel but played a huge part in achieving this success.
It’s not yet all over for the U14s though, as their 2nds travel to Limavady RFC next Saturday for the Quarter Final of the Ulster Plate.