Banbridge Academy 1st XV progressed to the final of the Schools’ Bowl with an excellent 27-20 victory away to a strong Belfast High School on a windy Wednesday afternoon in Jordanstown.
The Academy won the toss and elected to play with the strong diagonal wind at their backs. This decision was vindicated when Captain Adam Hanna surged onto a short pass on 13 minutes and dotted down for the try. Scrum Half Harry Patterson added the conversion. While the Academy had some opportunities to score over the next 20 minutes it was Belfast High who scored next. On 28 minutes, after some strong driving play, their flanker surged in for a score. The conversion was missed. This seemed to rattle the Academy and just 3 minutes later, after some uncharacteristically weak tackling, Belfast High scored again after a good individual run from their centre. This time the extras were added to leave the Academy in a precarious position 7-12 down with minutes to halftime. They responded magnificently and 2nd Row Dovydas Luitvinas pounced on a looped pass to intercept and go 40 metres under the posts. Patterson slotted the vital conversion.
So a fragile 2 point lead was the Academy’s only reward for the stiff wind and turning round into the in the 2nd half, it seemed this may not be enough. But the Banbridge Boys had saved their best rugby for the 2nd half. After just three minutes of the 2nd half Harry Patterson kicked a penalty, but this was quickly cancelled out by a Belfast High penalty. On 45 minutes Patterson kicked another penalty to stretch the lead to 5 points again and this signalled the Academy’s best period of the game. After some strong forward drives Patterson sniped though a gap at the edge of a ruck and jinked his way under the posts. He added the extras and seemed to give the Academy a strong lead, however on 60 minutes, Belfast High rallied and drove over for a further unconverted score to leave them just 7 points behind.
The final 10 minutes, plus 7 minutes of injury time, saw some resolute defence from Banbridge. Surge after surge was repelled and the game finished as the Academy held Belfast High up over the line under their own posts.
It was a fantastic performance and all the players should be congratulated on an outstanding display of character and skill.
This sets up a mouth-watering final against local rivals Dromore High School, who overcame a strong Limavady Grammar side in their semi-final. The final is scheduled for Wednesday 4 March at Banbridge Rugby Club with a 1.30pm start. A huge crowd is expected for this local derby and all support would be welcomed by both teams.