Banbridge Academy 1st XV lifted the coveted School Trophy last week with a 25-16 victory over Belfast High School.
The final was played at Friends’ School, Lisburn on a perfect sunny afternoon in front of massed supporters from both schools. It was the Academy who got off to the better start when in the first couple of minutes full-back Andrew Denver made a fine break and then linked with winger Hugo Bertholon only for a cover tackler to knock the ball loose just short of the line. Just a few minutes later after another fine attacking play centre Troy Pinion eluded the last defender to score in the corner. The wide out conversion was missed. Just five minutes later another excellent wide attacking play from the Academy resulted in Winger Hugo Bertholon out-pacing the cover and again scoring in the corner. The difficult conversion was also missed. On 15 minutes, after a period of pressure from Belfast High School, the Academy forced a turnover deep in their own 22 and full-back Andy Denver went fully 70m to beat all the cover defence and score in the same corner. This conversion was also missed. Thereafter there was some pressure from the High School and their endeavours were rewarded with two penalties on 30 and 35 minutes from Brandon McMinn. That left the halftime score 15-6 in the Academy’s favour.
Five minutes into the second half Out Half Tom Flanagan increased the Banbridge Academy lead to 18-6 when he converted a penalty opportunity. Shortly after this the Banbridge Academy 2nd Row, Andrew Shannon, took advantage of good work from Peter Sleith and Adam Hanna before crashing over for a try, which was converted by Tom Flanagan, to increase the Banbridge lead to 25-6. This was just reward for an excellent period of attacking play from the Academy. But once again the Belfast High School team mounted something of a revival. Following a well-organised driven maul after a lineout, Ryan Gibson touched down for an unconverted try to reduce the Belfast High School deficit to 25-11. In the final play of the game the Belfast High School team scored another try through Jack Ferguson.
Once the game had finished Graffin Parke, President of the Ulster Branch, IRFU, presented medals to all the players involved and the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy to the captain of the Banbridge Academy team, Timothy Beattie. Graffin, an Old Boy of Banbridge Academy, congratulated both teams on reaching the final and providing such an exciting game of schoolboy rugby.