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Historic victory for Banbridge as they turn on the style

Banbridge Academy 32 Portora 0

By Ronnie Ingram

History was made when Banbridge Academy lifted their first ever Senior Schools' silverware when they won the Danske Bank Schools' Trophy against Portora Royal at Stevenson Park.

The tie was more closely contested than the scoreline would suggest with Banbridge having to work really hard to take an eight point interval advantage.

All the more so as Portora had Eric Elliott yellow carded after the team was warned for conceding too many penalties.

The Enniskillen side came back after the restart and Banbridge had to defend for a time but once they added their next couple of scores the contest was as good as over. The Co Fermanagh team had to attack and this they did but in doing so left themselves vulnerable.

The Down team was in front after only three minutes when Aaron Kennedy kicked a penalty and this advantage was increased fifteen minutes later.

After a penetrating forward drive the ball was switched from Kennedy to centre Garrett Liggett who cut through, evaded a couple of defenders and touched down to make it 8-0. The conversion was missed and Kennedy and Daniel McElderry went on to miss difficult penalties before half-time.

Five minutes into the second period Bann lost their captain David McKeown with a shoulder injury and that unsettled them for a time. Then more forward pressure and numbers out wide allowed them to score their second try when Nathan McKinley touched down. Within a couple of minutes they proceeded to make full use of a clearance kick.

Matthew Armstrong gathered around halfway and he set off towards the opposing line with the ball passing between four players before McKinley cut through the defence to run in for Kennedy to goal and increase the lead to 20-0.

Portora, who won this Trophy two seasons ago against Omagh Academy 22-5, started to play their best rugby as they realised they had to attempt to get back into the tie.

They won more possession and their three-quarters showed what they could have done had they been given more ball. The opposition was put under pressure but they withstood the onslaught and then began to re-establish their authority.

Portora had given their all but Banbridge still had a couple of tries to score.

In the final ten minutes Kennedy moved into scrum-half and Paddy Hayes (left) came on.

Following a forward drive and a lot of recycling Hayes crossed for Kennedy to add the points. Five minutes later an accurate cross-kick from Hayes was gathered by Armstrong who crossed for the final try.

Tight head prop Calum Boardman had a great game with excellent ball carrying and Daniel McElderry countered well, tackled very hard and was frequently in the thick of things.

Eric Elliott made his presence felt in the Portora pack and out-half did his best despite the inadequate possession.

The Man of the Match was Banbridge's Aaron Kennedy. He showed his versatility with top class distribution and accurate kicking at out-half before moving to scrum-half towards the end where he was a constant danger to the opposing defence.

Banbridge coach Brian Leslie has put a lot of work into the teams over the past number of years and he was delighted with the result.

"I don't mean to sound arrogant but when we saw what teams were in the competition we thought that, if we could show the form we were capable of, then we had a chance to lift the Trophy.

"Thankfully that's what happened due to an all round team effort. We found the first half very difficult but we took our chances and withstood their pressure."

Portora's Raymond Clarke acknowledged that Banbridge was the better team on the day.

Clarke said: "We found ourselves too far behind and had to throw caution to the wind and then gave away a couple of tries that made the result more convincing than it was.

"Nathan Richardson played well in the centre and made a couple of half-breaks but lacked support.

"Flanker Ollie Gamble put in a lot of work and Peter Stubbs was at full-back due to an injury. He would normally be a winger but had a steady game despite being out of position."

Belfast Telegraph


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