Last weekend ,in the lovely setting of The Palace Grounds in Armagh, the Exiles and Ulster U20 squads produced a game of rugby which just got better as the match went on, with the final whistle going when the Exiles were in the ascendency but losing 17-20.
The first 15 minutes showed a slight edge to Ulster, resulting in a converted try, but the Exiles gradually found their feet and they came near to scoring on more than one occasion but had to settle for a penalty goal from out-half and captain Elliott O’Brien, to leave the score 3-7 at half-time.
The first half had been a good contest but the second half exceeded it right from the kick-off. The Exiles were attacking and counter-attacking from every opportunity but sterling Ulster defence denied them. A penalty and a very good individual breakaway try from Ulster almost seemed to have sealed the match half-way through the second half but a great comeback by the Exiles almost stole the game. Tries from wing Alex Orr and replacement lock Max Eden, both converted by Elliott O’Brien, put the Exiles within 3 points of victory but the final whistle intervened.
Though the Exiles players were naturally disappointed, the management team were very satisfied with the performance of the team and individuals. When one considers that the Exiles had just the day prior to the match to prepare, there were five U19s in the squad, and two of last season’s Ireland U19 internationals were unavailable, this reflects very well on both the coaches and the players indeed. With the back three counter-attacking, the back row tackling themselves to a standstill, and the front row more than holding their own, the platform was provided for the team performance that ensued. On any other day this could have been a very high-scoring match indeed but the excellence of the defence on both sides has to be complimented in this respect.
Exiles XV: Oliver Day (UWE Hartpury College), Scott Stevenson (Nottingham), Kieran Brookes (Kirkham GS); Peter Bradley (Malone), Patrick Boyle (Oxford University); Charlie Armstrong (Cornish Pirates), Seamus McKimm (Birmingham University), Rowan Halsall (Ealing); Hal Marsden (Doncaster Knights), Elliott O’Brien (Newcastle Falcons); Alex Orr (Sandal), Guy Michels (Northampton Saints), Charlie Ingall (Newcastle Falcons), Robbie Winchle (Loughborough Students); James Mitchell (Ealing). Replacements (all used): Declan Farrell (Doncaster Knights), Charlie Allum (St. Mary’s UC), Max Eden (Richmond), Patrick Clancy (Leeds Met University), Dominic Townsend (Loughborough Students), Fergus Knox (O Alleynians), & Phil Leonard (Preston Grasshoppers).
Head Coach: Peter Halsall; Coaches: Brian Farrell & John Casalaspro;
Manager & Assistant: John Hunter & Andrew Browne; Branch rep: Dr. Barry O’Driscoll