1st XV

2012 - 2013

As I write this annual end of season report it is difficult to put a positive spin on what everyone would agree was an extremely disappointing season, with a record of more defeats than victories. Over the course of the season the players’ commitment to training could never be questioned but too often individuals were looked upon to carry a team. Potentially, the season could have been a very good, however, this potential was only reached for short periods during games.

The season started off with 40 to 50 players taking part in pre season training with the view to playing in the now annual Graham Cup. The performance of the team in competition provided optimism for the season ahead. This was, however, very short lived as defeats to well prepared Dalriada and Down High sides followed. The first victory of the season came against Dungannon with some excellent first half rugby. Lack of fitness at this stage was apparent as Dungannon came back strongly and nearly snatched the victory. Another stuttering last minute victory followed against Friends before a defeat to a fancied Sullivan Upper side. Winning ways were soon restored with a big victory against a young Carrick Grammar side.

The squad departed shortly after this for a 4 day joint rugby/hockey tour to Edinburgh. Two tough fixtures had been organised against schools which boasted several Scottish representative players. Against a strong Loreto we played some very good rugby scoring several nice tries only to be let down by some poor defending which let our opposition run away with the game. After a pool session that evening to get the bodies back to some resemblance of normality we took to the pitch again the next day against Dollar Academy. After dominating the first half we let Dollar in for a breakaway score right on half time. Unfortunately the physicality of the previous day’s game started to show and Dollar ran away with the game in the second half. The experience in Edinburgh highlighted to everyone the level of physicality that needed to be reached.

The second part of the term saw a big victory against Larne but was followed with defeats to Campbell College, Wesley College and Armagh. There was, however, a well deserved victory against a well prepared Ulster Under 17 Club side under lights at Carrick RFC. This was followed up with another victory against the Ulster Under 18 Club side over the Christmas holiday period.

With Dalriada now awaiting in the third round of the Schools’ Cup defeats against strong Belfast High and Rainey sides wasn’t ideal preparation. At this stage we were continuing to struggle in executing a consistent game plan. With the weather affecting the preparation for the cup game with the game itself being postponed, the side took to the field on Wednesday afternoon for their most important game of the season. In a game in were the wind made playing conditions difficult, continuous individual errors would eventually cost us the game. With the lead changing hands several times Dalriada led with time running out. Unfortunately when cool heads were required a winning score was thrown away with the last play of the game and Dalriada secured victory.

The challenge of winning the Schools’ Bowl was set and accepted straight after the game. A home tie against Omagh seemed perfect for us. However, low in confidence without having a victory since December, Omagh squeezed through by 5 points to 3.

This was an extremely disappointing way to end the season, especially for Steven Marshall, Billy Gibson, Matthew Allen, Steven Kirk and Peter Davison who have been ever present on the 1st XV for the last 2/3 years. These players gave everything to their school rugby careers and were always, this season, on hand to carry the ball forward and get the side moving. Sam Purdon deservedly won the Player of the Year with some outstanding performances. This was rewarded with an end of season Ulster Under 19 trial. Players came in and out of the starting team over the course of the season but the regulars were to include Jamie McMullan, who had, at 15, looked very comfortable in a new playing position. Shane Johnston was always a threat on the wing but we didn’t exploit his pace often enough. Stewart Baillie finally got a full season at 1st XV level and always looked a dangerous scrum half. Mark Rainey played his first full season on the 1st XV as prop and always looked comfortable. Daniel Mayhew moved from the back row to hooker and showed what dedication to individual skills practice can do as his line throwing improved immensely throughout the season. The back and backline were ably assisted throughout the season by Scott Adams, Michael Young, Neil Cushley, Zac Smith, Dale Stinson and Carl Rae.

To the contingent of Upper 6th players leaving I wish them well in their future rugby careers and hope that they continue to be involved in the game in some way or another. To the group of players staying and coming through - an even bigger challenge lies ahead next season.

In conclusion I would like to thank Mr McCallan and Mr White for all of their work with the senior team this year.

By Mr G Hunter