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Ulster Double Up In Donnybrook To Win Long-Awaited U-18 Schools Title

Ulster Double Up In Donnybrook To Win Long-Awaited U-18 Schools Title

The sight of captain John McKee lifting the IRFU Under-18 Schools Interprovincial trophy at Donnybrook has given Ulster Rugby’s age-grade programmes a huge boost, following their title-clinching 18-17 win over runners-up Leinster.


Scorers: Leinster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ross McInness, Sam Dardis; Cons: Mick O’Gara 2; Pen: Mick O’Gara
Ulster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ryan O’Neill, James Nelson; Con: Nathan Doak; Pens: Nathan Doak 2

HT: Leinster U-18 Schools 10 Ulster U-18 Schools 15

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It was neck and neck heading into the final round of the Championship, hosts Leinster sitting on 10 points ahead of a winner-takes-all clash with Ulster, who were right behind them on nine points.

In the end, it was the Ulster youngsters who ended their province’s 12-year wait for an U-18 Schools Interpro crown. First half tries from Ryan O’Neill and Bryn Davies, and Nathan Doak’s eight points from the tee, saw Ulster complete a hard-fought double over Leinster – they won with the exact same scoreline in Belfast at the start of the month.

Industrious Ulster were quicker into their patterns early on in this rematch, their big forwards getting around the corner and out-half Thomas Armstrong forcing Leinster’s Max O’Reilly to complete an overhead mark as three attackers closed in.

The visitors were playing with a penalty advantage, though, and Wallace High School’s Doak kicked them ahead in the seventh minute. Soon after, the soft hands of number 8 David McCann and centre Angus Adair put winger Robin McIlveen (pictured below) one-on-one with O’Reilly, who made his tackle.

Ulster were very direct, their hooker Davies driving at the heart of the Leinster defence and Armstrong spinning the ball into the hands of flanker O’Neill for a well-taken 14th-minute try and an 8-0 lead. Remarkably, it was a full 15 minutes before a Leinster player touched the ball in the Ulster half, O’Reilly rising again to claim a high ball.

Davies promptly won a penalty on the ground to keep the visitors playing in the right area of the pitch. However, a miscued lineout and centre Ben Power’s failure to roll away at a ruck finally gave Leinster possession which they initially could not benefit from.

They mirrored Ulster in keeping their attack narrow through the driving work of centre Mick O’Gara, prop Thomas Clarkson and captain Cian Prendergast to draw a penalty. O’Gara slotted the points in the 23rd minute to get Jeff Carter’s side up and running.

The athleticism of Newbridge College’s Prendergast eked out an opening down a tight corridor on the right which was quickly closed off by Ulster. Full-back Sam Dardis (pictured below) made more ground than he had a right to on the counter, O’Gara’s kick bobbling all the way beyond the in-goal area.

This returned the pressure and Ulster’s Ireland-capped winger Aaron Sexton was the obvious out-ball, testing the resolute Chris Cosgrave down the left. Then, Ulster claimed a lineout and charged right for Davies to power over for Doak to convert for 15-3 on the half hour.

Finally, Leinster put some tempo into their attack from busy winger O’Reilly’s surge. Ulster were in place to make their tackles until Terenure College centre Ross McInness’ fend put him outside Power for a timely try and O’Gara added the extras, closing the gap to15-10 just on half-time.

When replacement Tom Stewart from BRA made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown for a penalty, Doak fancied his chances from halfway without the execution to match his ambition. However, the talented scurm half probed the 22 with a tumbling kick where an overthrown lineout put Stewart on the ball. A penalty was forthcoming and Doak made it a two-score game (18-10) in the 45th minute.

Leinster flanker Jack Cooke gobbled up the restart and out-half Ben Watson’s grubber asked a question to which Doak (pictured below) had the answer. Leinster were generating fast ruck ball for scrum half Ben Murphy’s quick service but without the composure to make it count.

It was a real ding-dong battle as a knifing break from Ulster flanker Kevin MacNaboe was thwarted by a Dardis turnover. As hard-working Leinster continued to press, a misdirected lineout ended up in the hands of Blackrock’s Clarkson and his thrust to the line was stalled by a high tackle.

Leinster opted for a scrum ahead of the points and were not clinical enough to deliver as winger Cosgrave was bottled up for a turnover when referee Ken Imbusch called a maul. Replacement Ethan Baxter provided a spark to go with prop Clarkson’s non-stop engine and it was full-back Dardis who pounced for the try they so badly needed.

O’Gara’s conversion made it a one-point game in the 62nd minute, setting up a grandstand finish. Leinster appeared to have the momentum, but they could not get into a scoring position, with a vital turnover and Ulster’s ability to run down the clock sealing a famous victory for a promising squad coached by Kieran Campbell, Bryan Young and John Creighton.

LEINSTER U-18 SCHOOLS: Sam Dardis (Terenure College); Chris Cosgrave (St. Michael’s College), Ross McInness (Terenure College), Mick O’Gara (Presentation College Bray), Max O’Reilly (St. Gerard’s School); Cian Egenton (Castleknock College), Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray); Conor Duff (Clongowes Wood College), Bobby Sheehan (Clongowes Wood College), Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College), Jody Booth (St. Michael’s College), Cian Prendergast (Newbridge College) (capt), Anthony Ryan (Clongowes Wood College), Jack Cooke (Terenure College), Ed Brennan (Blackrock College).

Replacements: Jerry Cahir (Cistercian College Roscrea), Luke Rigney (Cistercian College Roscrea), Simon Clear (Gonzaga College), Daniel Beggs (Clongowes Wood College), Ethan Baxter (St. Gerard’s School), Adam McEvoy (St. Mary’s College), Ben Watson (St. Gerard’s School), Andrew Smith (St. Michael’s College).

ULSTER U-18 SCHOOLS: Robbie Armstrong (Methodist College); Robin McIlveen (RBAI), Ben Power (Campbell College), Angus Adair (RBAI), Aaron Sexton (Bangor Grammar School); Thomas Armstrong (Methodist College), Nathan Doak (Wallace High School); Ben McCrossan (Bangor Grammar Sschool), Bryn Davies (Rainey Endowed School), John McKee (Campbell College) (capt), Joshua McAuley (Ballymena Academy), James Nelson (Ballyclare High School), Ryan O’Neill (Royal School Armagh), Kevin McNaboe (Methodist College), David McCann (RBAI).

Replacements: Tom Stewart (BRA), Ben Crangle (Methodist College), Glenn McKinley (Omagh Academy), Jack Stinson (Campbell College), Oscar Egan (Coleraine Grammar School), David Brown (Coleraine Grammar School), Lewis Finlay (Down High School), Robbie Johnston (Regent House).

Referee: Ken Imbusch (IRFU)


Scorers: Leinster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ethan Baxter, Andrew Smith, Daniel Beggs, Max O’Reilly; Cons: Mick O’Gara 4; Pens: Mick O’Gara 2
Munster U-18 Schools: Tries: John Hurley, Cian Hurley, Jamin Hoffmann; Cons: Ryan O’Sullivan, Jack Delaney; Pen: Jack Delaney

HT: Leinster U-18 Schools 17 Munster U-18 Schools 22

Scorers: Munster U-18 Schools: Try: Andrew Hogan; Con: Jack Delaney; Pen: Jack Delaney
Ulster U-18 Schools: Pens: Nathan Doak 3

HT: Munster U-18 Schools 10 Ulster U-18 Schools 6

ULSTER U-18 SCHOOLS 18 LEINSTER U-18 SCHOOLS 17, Campbell College Belfast
Scorers: Ulster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ben McCaughey, Aaron Sexton; Con: Nathan Doak; Pens: Nathan Doak 2
Leinster U-18 Schools: Tries: Cian Prendergast, Ben Murphy; Cons: Mick O’Gara 2; Pen: Mick O’Gara

HT: Ulster U-18 Schools 18 Leinster U-18 Schools 3

Provinces Have One Win Apiece In U-18 Schools Interpros

MUNSTER U-18 SCHOOLS 12 LEINSTER U-18 SCHOOLS 23, Cork Institute of Technology
Scorers: Munster U-18 Schools: Tries: Tommy Downes, Aaron Hennessy; Con: Andrew Hogan
Leinster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ed Brennan, Sam Dardis, Ethan Baxter; Con: Mick O’Gara; Pens: Mick O’Gara 2

HT: Munster U-18 Schools 0 Leinster U-18 Schools 8

Leinster U-18 Schools Team Complete Munster Double

Scorers: Ulster U-18 Schools: Try: Kevin McNaboe; Con: Nathan Doak; Pens: Nathan Doak 3
Munster U-18 Schools: Pens: Cian Whooley 4

HT: Ulster U-18 Schools 9 Munster U-18 Schools 3

Ulster U-18 Schools Side Set Up Interpro Title Decider With Leinster

Scorers: Leinster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ross McInness, Sam Dardis; Cons: Mick O’Gara 2; Pen: Mick O’Gara
Ulster U-18 Schools: Tries: Ryan O’Neill, James Nelson; Con: Nathan Doak; Pens: Nathan Doak 2

HT: Leinster U-18 Schools 10 Ulster U-18 Schools 15



36 – Mick O’Gara (Leinster), Nathan Doak (Ulster)
12 – Cian Whooley (Munster)
10 – Jack Delaney (Munster), Ethan Baxter (Leinster), Sam Dardis (Leinster)
7 – Andrew Hogan (Munster)


2 – Ethan Baxter (Leinster), Sam Dardis (Leinster)

1 – Andrew Smith (Leinster), Daniel Beggs (Leinster), Max O’Reilly (Leinster), Cian Prendergast (Leinster), Ben Murphy (Leinster), Ed Brennan (Leinster), Ross McInness (Leinster), John Hurley (Munster), Cian Hurley (Munster), Jamin Hoffmann (Munster), Andrew Hogan (Munster), Tommy Downes (Munster), Aaron Hennessy (Munster), Ben McCaughey (Ulster), Aaron Sexton (Ulster), Kevin McNaboe (Ulster), Ryan O’Neill (Ulster), James Nelson (Ulster)