The 2023-24 schools’ rugby season for the Academy has started brightly on both the team performance, and individual recognition, fronts.
The 1st XV has had a strong start to the year with 8 wins out of 8 including a Schools’ Cup group game – a comprehensive win over Carrickfergus Grammar School. There have also been excellent victories over strong teams – Enniskillen RGS, Portadown College and Regent House. The team has a potent blend of power and pace, and great skill, and are playing an exciting brand of rugby. 1st XV Captain Daniel Hutchinson is backed up by a squad of talented individuals, several of whom have pushed on this year to gain provincial and indeed international recognition. The squad includes two Irish players in hooker Connor Magee and 2nd row/back row Noah Bell.
Connor gained Irish Schools’ U18 recognition this summer when he was selected to participate in the Irish Schools’ training camp and matches in Wales against the hosts, Italy and Scotland. Connor played in two of the three games and scored twice against Scotland. He was also in the Ulster Schools’ U18 squad that competed well in the interpro series in August and September but was unfortunately injured so was not considered for selection for the Halloween Irish Training camps. Connor’s performances have been so good however, that he has been included in the IRFU National Talent squad for 2023/24.
Noah Bell was selected for the Irish U18 Clubs & Schools’ team and at half term he participated in a camp in Dublin, and then flew to Italy to play a test match where he gained his first cap in a thrilling 31-27 loss. Noah had previously Captained the Ulster U18 Clubs & Schools’ side during the interpros and this Irish selection was just reward for a brilliant season to date. These accomplishments are all the more impressive as Noah is actually in the U17 (he is Year 13 in school) age category and has another year in the U18 age grade.
No 8 Ryan Hanna also played the full interpro series for Ulster Clubs & Schools’ U18 and he too had a strong series and has been included in the U19 training panel for next year. Ryan is also Year 13 but he has an earlier date of birth, so he plays in the older category. Outhalf Andrew Jackson was also included in the training squad for the Ulster U18 Clubs & Schools’ squad and he too is young for the team so has another year to try to force his way onto the senior panels after some impressive outings for the U17 squad.
At U17 Ulster level Noah Haughey, Arturs Jonuss & Fynn Niblock have all been included in the season long training squads and are all progressing well, while at U16 level Sam Leslie, Ethan Houston, Harry Davidson, Conor McNamee and Charlie Geoghegan are all currently with the regional development squads.
The other school teams have also been performing well; in addition to the 1st XV’s good start to the season the 2nd XV have also begun well and defeated Larne Grammar in the 2nd XV Cup 1st round 27-5. The 3rd XV has also reformed this year and are due to start their cup campaign soon against Methodist College Belfast.
Our Medallion XV have also had a good start to the season with some impressive victories and will begin the Medallion Shield in early December. Our U14 and U13 squads continue to battle hard every week and are building into strong teams and the U12s will be playing there first full rugby matches within the next couple of weeks; large numbers at training and a superb work ethic would indicate they can be a force to be reckoned with!
With plenty more rugby to come this year it is hoped that the success, and the enjoyment, will continue to flow as rugby in Banbridge Academy continues to flourish and also provide experiences and opportunities for our students.