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Carrick hold off Lurgan: McCormack seals the win as Kennedy's boys march through

Carrick GS 22 - Lurgan College 3

By Jonathan Bradley

Two tries in each half saw Carrickfergus overcome Lurgan College 22-3 and advance to the second round of the Danske Bank Schools' Cup on Saturday morning.

With an accurate set-piece and stellar work at the breakdown, Carrick's forward unit secured the upper hand in the first-half and, despite the frigid conditions, their backs were able to press home the advantage after the turn.

Head coach Neal Kennedy was especially pleased with the effort of his pack and commented: "That was probably the best forward performance we've had all season.

"We won the breakdown, we mauled well, the pillar defence was superb, and I think ultimately that's where the game was won.

"Lurgan came here earlier in the season and beat us by four or five points so we knew the level of the challenge. They played incredibly well but it was just a matter of the fine details.

"We had a few chances to score and made sure we took them."

The Co Antrim side will be at home again in the next round having been drawn to play Belfast Royal Academy in two weeks time and Kennedy feels his side have reason to be confident.

"We've played some of sides who will come in for the next round, the likes of Omagh, and beat them before, so we're not going to be fearful of anybody," he said.

"We'll just look forward to building on this."

Both sides had chances to open the scoring during the early exchanges but, after a period of extended pressure, the hosts saw the wind push Marc Ellison's penalty wide of the posts, while Lurgan were in a promising position after a lineout only for Scott Henderson to force a crucial turnover at the breakdown.

It took until the 25th minute for Carrickfergus to take a deserved lead through Christian Robinson.

Fly-half David Carse advanced towards the posts with determination before Adam Urquhart took up the charge.

The ball was then worked out to centre Robinson who darted between two men and touched down.

The conversion was again dragged left and the score stood at 5-0.

Lurgan almost mounted an immediate response when a high ball sparked confusion in the Carrickfergus backline but Michael Black had sufficient pace to chase down Jonathan Hunter. The visitors still forced a lineout deep into opposition territory but, after Victor McKenzie had been held up over line, they had to settle for a Scott Wilson penalty awarded when Carrickfergus went off their feet.

That appeared to be the end of the scoring for the half but, with the whistle imminent, the home side's midfield pairing of Christian Robinson and Jake Porter combined brilliantly to get the ball to Carse and the number 10 made an acrobatic one-handed dive for the line, applying just enough downward pressure on the ball in the process.

The conversion was missed and Carrickfergus led by seven at the half-way stage.

Lurgan had a long spell of possession to open the second period but committed defending from the likes of Henderson, Daniel Anaele and the Berry twins ensured that they made little headway.

It stayed a one score game until five minutes before the end when two late tries added a gloss to the scoreline.

A set move off of a scrum released Robinson for his second of the day, which Ellison duly converted, and was followed by a deserved touchdown for Fionn McCormack with the final play of the game.

Neal Kennedy's side were one of seven winners on Saturday and the septet were joined in the hat for the second round by nine schools who had received first round byes.

Two ties pitch sides who won this weekend against each other as Regent House were paired with Foyle College and Limavady Grammar face a trip to Portadown College.

Banbridge Academy were rewarded for their comfortable win over Antrim Grammar with a trip to face Portora while Grosvenor will host Omagh Academy in the next round after knocking out Cambridge House for the second year in succession.

Of the sides only entering at this stage, six were paired up with one another as Bangor Grammar will host Dalriada, Down High welcome Rainey Endowed and Belfast High travel to Royal School Armagh.

The fixtures will be played on Saturday January 24 while RBAI, Methody, Campbell College, Sullivan Upper, Wallace High School, Ballyclare High, Ballymena Academy and Coleraine AI will join the competition in the third round.

Belfast Telegraph

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