Medallion XV

2012 - 2013

It all began on a balmy morning in August in the luxurious surroundings of Orangefield Park. Who would have thought that this rag-tag bunch of unfit medallion players that dragged themselves out of bed to start pre season training would end up as Grosvenor’s first rugby team to win a trophy in 30 years! (but more of that later)

After a few sessions of sweating, vomiting and crying the boys took to the field to face the full force of a Dalriada team who had beaten our boys comfortably the previous season. It proved a much tighter affair this time around, with Dalriada only pulling clear to win by 15 points in the last quarter of the match. Defeats followed on from that, disappointingly so against Down High and Dromore but an away game against the fine educational establishment of Royal School Dungannon lifted the boys’ morale. It should be noted that while we had lost a few games the margin of defeat was significantly reduced from previous years which encouraged coaches and players alike - improvements were evident! The boys then produced an exceptional performance to put Cambridge House away for 50 points. Then the same fate awaited Friends’ school and this Medallion side were taking shape and playing some great rugby. Strong early season form was largely led by some damaging carriers in our forward pack, with James Sims, Andrew Boyd and James Cartlidge causing chaos like a stampeding Wildebeest in a herd of gazelles. This left room for our creative link players like Mark Johnson, Jonah McDowell and Stewart McClune to profit and score some nice tries.

Things however took a dip during the build up to Medallion Shield time with heavy defeats to Campbell College, Sullivan Upper and most disappointing of all away to Larne Grammar. They were some shining lights during this time with Steven Ross, Medani Eshibly and Caleb Armitage all starring in loose play and line outs respectively. Rory Foster was beginning to assert his huge frame onto proceedings and Andrew Welsh’s top was becoming increasingly tighter around the bicep area.

Key injuries at this stage to Boydo, Gareth Reid, and our tree hugging environmentalist Stewart McClune meant we were a little stretched at times. Added to this was Jamie Watson’s departure for his musical career and it was a tough part of the season.

We lost further matches against Armagh Royal, Rainey Endowed and we drew against Carrick Grammar which led us into the Christmas period on a run of disappointing results. However as we always remind the Medallion players every year, it is about peaking at the right time and that time was rapidly approaching as we were drawn at home to Dalriada in the second round of the Shield.

The build up to Shield went extremely well as players were coming back from injury and the shape, balance and fitness of the side was looking well. Alex Cullen was throwing well, line- out mauls were tight, the backs with Jonah in the centre were providing a platform to build from and our patterns when they were adhered to were proving effective. Dalriada arrived in confident fashion no doubt expecting a win as they had beaten us comfortably at the start of the year. This Grosvenor Medallion Team however had other ideas and quickly set about the task of winning this game in a professional manner. After some successful carries by our pack a gap opened up for Mark to go through, dummy the pass to the full back and race under to put us 5 up, with Jonah adding the extras. Dalriada hit back with a score but no conversion so we went into half time points up. We extended the lead with another score from Mark and a superb touchline kick from Jonah to put us further ahead. Dalriada did fight back but ultimately our defence and organisation kept them at bay and we had the game won - a great turn around from the earlier result. Unfortunately our next game saw us lose away to Protora Royal School in Enniskillen. When you travel away from home you are always vulnerable to conceding an early score and we did just that… inside one minute! We learned a valuable lesson that day and committed to each other that even though we were out of the shield, we would win the Medallion Bowl. Our quarter final Bowl game pitted us against Armagh Royal School who had also beaten us previously in the season. They too however would learn that this Grosvenor side had improved immensely and there was only one side on the pitch that day. Forwards and backs combined magnificently and we ran out winners 22-10 which again was a great turn around win. Our third form contingent of Ben Davison, Thomas Quinn, Jack Mahon and Ross Nelson all deserve recognition for their part in this campaign thus far. The semi final draw was tough on us with an away game to Larne Grammar. Larne had put 40 point on us earlier in the year and to be honest I personally was delighted with the opportunity to go back up there and prove that we were a better side now. We lost Adam Skelton in the warm up with a groin problem but Conor Kernohan of third form came in and opened the scoring with a great cheeky scamper through a gap. This game epitomised the Medallion’s improvements as a side and they controlled possession and territory throughout. Our lineout and driving maul was particularly effective and bar a couple of silly mistakes by our back three and a very fortunate bounce of a ball for their number 8, Larne were never in the game. We ended up victorious and Carrick Grammar awaited us in the final. It was to be played at BRA’s grounds at Roughfort and an extended squad of 30 boys warmed up as the crowds gathered. It was a lovely day for running rugby, and we started with intent. After a few barging runs from our forwards which was a hallmark of our style of play, gaps were opening up and Jonah McDowell sliced through to open the scoring. We really were playing well and kept Carrick’s scoring opportunities to a minimum and at half time after another serious bit of driving, Andrew Boyd crashed over and we were 10-3 up. Zac McNabb, our most improved player this season, made some telling tackles against their danger man and as the second half progressed we added another 7 points, courtesy of Jonah McDowell. Despite conceding a late try for some consolation for Carrick we were magnificent and no doubt the best team on the day. We ended up winning 17-10 and Grosvenor’s rugby trophy drought had ended! A great way to end the season for a great bunch of boys! Big thanks to Mr Smyth, Mr Tipping and Mr McConville for all their hard work throughout the season.

Mr A Gibson