Category Archives: Rugby

Jackson leads Ulster to crucial victory over Leinster

A stunning performance from half-back partnership Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar left Ulster to a priceless 30-6 victory over provincial rivals Leinster on Saturday.

At a packed out Kingspan Stadium, the Northern Province knew that only a win would keep their title winning hopes alive. In the penultimate weekend of the Guinness Pro-12 season, Ulster’s hopes of a semi-final berth hung in the balance.

Early in the game, it was the southern visitors that applied the early pressure but they failed to capitalise, penalised for holding on five metres from Ulster’s line. It was Ulster who then struck first blood with a Jackson penalty, which was shortly followed by a penalty try.

From then on, Leinster were always chasing the game, two penalties before half-time from outside half Jonathan Sexton kept them in the hunt. However, it was ultimately Ulster’s dogged defenced which ensured victory for the men in white.

Sustaining early pressure near their try line at the start of both halves frustrated Sexton and co, and it wasn’t long before Ulster applied their own second half pressure. A sweeping move involving Pienaar, Jackson and Luke Marshall sent fullback Jared Payne over for the try which really killed the game off as a contest.

Fittingly, it was Ulster’s 24-year-old fly half Jackson who had the final say on this occasion. He rounded off a fine individual performance both in defence, attack and from the tee firstly through a thumping tackle on Ian Madigan. Then, moments later, it was Jackson who intercepted a Leinster pass before displaying great speed to race the length of the pitch for the game’s final try.

In front of the on-looking Joe Schmidt, Jackson was clearly the standout number 10 on a field which consisted of the two men, Sexton and Madigan, who in recent times have been the preferred choices of Schmidt for a place in the Ireland squad.

It was a performance that kept Ulster’s season alive. They now go to Wales to play the Ospreys, knowing that a victory there will see them into the Semi Final stage.

In a season of inconsistency from an Ulster side who on paper should be a match for anyone in the Northern Hemisphere, this result suggested how good a side they could really be. With one more week of the regular season remaining, it really is all to play for, for the Ulstermen.

Successful Day at the Omagh Rugby 7s

On Saturday 25th April, Omagh Academicals Rugby Football Club hosted their annual Seven’s Tournament.

27 teams from across Ulster competed in four leagues.  The Omagh Accies first team defeated their Omagh 2nd XV counterparts, to win the Campbell Cup.

Omagh Accies XV, Campbell Cup Winners

‘No Woman No Try’, a team of other Omagh players, won the third tier trophy on offer, the PJ Ryan Cup.

No Woman No Try, PJ Ryan Cup Winners

Dungannon took the Watterson Cup back to Stevenson Park, while the ladies of Cooke won the ladies competition, which was hosted for the first time in the tournament’s history.

Dungannon RFC, Watterson Cup Winners
Cooke RFC ladies, Ladies Cup Winners

Visiting teams such as Enniskillen, Clogher Valley, Dungannon and City of Derry joined Omagh Academy and a mix of competitive and social sides from the host club including ‘The Mexicans’, who stood out in their new colours but fielded in their 19th season. The team was captained by Keith Givens, who has played in the team since their first outing in 1996.

The day not only included rugby, but also a beach volleyball tournament, an inflatable bar, DJ and a hot tub which players enjoyed in the beautiful weather.

Beach Volleyball at the 7s Tournament

The evening, which had a lot to live up to, following the great day the many players and spectators had enjoyed, did not disappoint. The Logues played to a packed rugby club and the high spirited Accies celebrated the end of a great season, with the 1st XV winning Kukri Qualifying 2 league, gaining promotion to Qualifying 1 and also making it to the final of the McCall Wylie Junior Cup played at Ravenhill. The 2nd XV won the Crawford Cup and the club has been nominated for the Ulster Branch Club of the Year award.

The club are looking forward to their “off-peak” period with a pre-season tour of Munster planned and the return of the mixed-tag tournament which never disappoints.

Ulster manage to hold on in Galway

Ulster scored five tries in Galway, as they put provincial rivals Connacht to the sword.

In front of a sold out Sports ground, Ulster maintained second place in the Pro 12, for a couple of hours at least, with a convincing win over Connacht.

Ulster aided by some of their returning Irish internationals scored three tries without reply in the first half, to lead 17 nil at half time. Louis Ludik, and Craig Gilroy all crossed the white wash, with Paddy Jackson pulling the strings in midfield.

Connacht with the aid of a strong breeze and some lax Ulster tackling, scored the first try in the second half. Irish international winger Matt Healy got the westerners back in the game with a fine individual try. Miah Nikora added the conversion and a further penalty to cut the deficit to 17-10.

Ulster immediately replied and extended their lead, when Lions wing Tommy Bowe went over for his second try of the game.  Ruan Pinearr, who seemed to leave his kicking boots at Ravenhill, missed his third conversion from his fourth attempt. Jack Carty then added another Connaught penalty, to keep the score board ticking over and leave Connacht 22-10 down.

Ulster’s relentless work at the breakdown eventually paid dividend. From a driving maul Ulster managed to bundle Rory Best over for his first and Ulster’s fifth try of the day. Pienarr missed the conversion, to leave the away side 27-10 up.

Connacht didn’t give up and after some good work from the forwards, the ball was spread to fullback Tiernan O’Halloran who sprinted over to score Connacht’s second try of the match. Carty kicked the conversion and with just ten minutes to go, Connacht where only a converted try away from drawing the match.

Ulster managed to hang on for a bonus point win and move up to second place in table and into one of the home semi-final spots. Connacht get a losing bonus point, which may turn out to be invaluable in order to finish in one of the automatic Champions Cup positions in the league.

Connacht have a tough run in, facing Glasgow, Ospreys and Zebre in their final three games. Ulster also have a tricky end of season fixture list, having to play Leinster, Munster and Glasgow in the final rounds of the league.

 

 

 

Chris Henry makes his return to a roaring crowd

Chris Henry was the star of the show on Friday night as he made his return to the field. After suffering a mini stroke back in November, it was debatable as to whether he would ever make his return in an Ulster jersey. So in the 58th minute as cheers rang through the Kingspan Stadium, Henry ran onto home ground in an emotional and memorable return to a winning Ulster team.

Chris Henry making his return to the Ulster squad on Friday night
Chris Henry making his return to the Ulster squad on Friday night

The Ulster boys got off to a flying start with Craig Kilroy scoring the first try of the game in the 3rd minute and a conversion giving them a 7 point lead. Ruan Pienaar scored a penalty in the 14th minute followed by Louis Ludik scoring a try. Another penalty for No.9, Pienaar changed the score 18-nill to Ulster in the 30th minute. The first threat came from the Cardiff Blues in the 33rd minute with a foul against Ulster.

The first half of play was halted from 25mins due to injuries. Ulster’s Stuart Olding was stretchered off just four minutes into play with a knee injury. Rhys Pachell, a Cardiff Blue player was later stretchered off with a head injury, for which Nick Williams was handed a yellow card to the dismay of the Cardiff side.

However, the second half got off to a flying start with Cardiff closing the point gap to just four points in the 62nd minute, with a score of 21-17 to Ulster. Ruan Pienaar continued on his winning strike by scoring a penalty before being replaced. Cardiff held onto the ball well in the 67th and 68th minute before another highlight of the game which came from Louis Ludik in the 72nd minute with a magical try as he breezed through Cardiff Blue’s defence.

The final point in the game came from Paul Marshall and was converted by Ian Humphreys taking the final score to 36-17 for a bonus point victory. Ulster succeeded in gaining another five points and in the Guinness Pro12 league. Ulster now take on Connacht on Saturday 11th April.

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Guinness Pro 12 league table

 

Rugby for Beginners

As a journalist we are told to experience everything, even sport, even rugby.

As a GAA based family including a grandfather who blessed himself at the word soccer, rugby was never on power. I knew the ball was egged, New Zealand had a team, and they had a dance ritual

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After Belfast Royal Academy (BRA) drew with Bangor’s Regent House in the 2XV cup I was brought to the replay.

When I arrived at the grounds I was disappointed the New Zealand dancing was not part of this teams pre-match. I on the other hand was wiggling for warmth. One similarity stood out between all sports, the atmosphere was electric.

The match had a slow start but soon Belfast Royal Academy awoke with a Jack Forbes try. He then went for the conversion. Jack made use of a cone as he lost his kicking tee and SS Moore’s were closed, with little difference he successfully scored the conversion.  The first half had BRA in the lead with Regent house attempting to get hold of the game but they failed to keep the ball thanks to the efforts of Samuel Hamil who kicked for territory relieving pressure.

During the second half BRA struggled to keep the ball, but even then Regent could not score. Samuel kicked which resulted in an injury. He tried to play but the discomfort was clear. Samuel had a strong kick and each time Regent got the ball he got it back to BRA. With good or bad a few minutes later the ball came towards me. Although it could have been a small child at my feet as that would also cause confusion.

Alister Mc Gary said “BRA danced their way around the pitch to victory!” BRA won with an embarrassing defeat of 56-0 against regent house. I caught up with the recovered Samuel Hamil at the end of the match. He said “it was a brilliant match, we played well and hope we can keep up the standard for the rest of the season.”

Despite my lack of knowledge around the game I found the experience enjoyable and look forward to more matches, but I’ll leave the Sports enthusiasts to report them.

In the end Regent House suffered a huge 56-0 defeat.

Donaghadee RFC Making History.

Some of the players of Donaghadee RFC.
Donaghadee RFC move from strength to strength.

Donaghadee Rugby Club have their celebrations in full swing after beating Ballynahinch RFC to make it the prestigious Towns Cup Final for the first time in fifty-five years.

The game started off on the right foot for the men in red and green, with Donaghadee first to put points on the sheet, with a great penalty by Nigel Barker in the fourth minute of play. Donaghadee continued to show great dominance and determination in the early stages of the game, narrowly missing a second penalty by Barker in the 9th minute.

Ballynahinch RFC began to fight back, and got the first opportunity to move the ball along their backline in the 15th minute of the game. This attack was stopped by a knock on from the left winger, Chris Savage, which brought a dangerous attack to an end.

After this great spell of play from Hinch, and the fight back from Donaghadee – both sets of supporters started to rally up and get behind their teams, creating a real Donaldson Park atompshere at times. The tenacious Donaghadee captain Alastair Lockhart led by example and was not short of ball carrying options in Cooke, Deboys, Hamilton, Johnston and company, each of which started to successfully wear down the Hinch defence one pass at a time.

Alastair Lockhart was in great control of his Donaghadee side from the start, leading by example with his rapid pace. Lockhart was sure to get quick ball to his support runners and when space opened up, the backline was able to started moving the ball down the line with both Allen and Alexander  proving to be threatening in the first quarter of the pitch. This drive by Lockhart proved crucial in controlling the pace of play, and the men in red and green managed to gain the first try of the game in the 32nd minute, David Murray being the man to touch down.

The second half of the game saw a deflated Ballynahinch side take to the pitch. More scores from the men in red and green proved critical for the morale of the away team. Donaghadee took full advantage of this dip in confidence from Hinch, using the substitute bench to introduce fresh legs to the game to help extend the Dee lead further.

The final stages of the game did see a more fighting Hinch side shine through. The away side began to enjoy their share of possession, however given the score line they were forced to keep ball in hand and try to manufacture any potential scoring opportunities from Donaghadee who were comfortably in the lead at this stage.

A penalty from the away side, caused some noise on the sidelines from the Hinch supporters, however the dominance by the Dee in the first half of the game was invaluable, and the men in red and green finished with a 16 point lead when the final whistle was blown in Donaldson Park.

 

Hannah Spratt

 

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Malone settles old grudge against Harlequins.

Harlequins vs. Malone (15.03.14)

Harlequins (Quins) and Malone face each other today in an old grudge match.  With Harlequins winning the coin toss, they kick off.

An aggressive and fast paced series of plays were quickly undone by a steal and a kick from Malone.   The first five minutes built up the tempo with some crashing tackles, on both sides, only to be followed by shoddy ball handling.  It seems that Quins are opting to kick rather than to play in their own half.  However, Malone show confidence in their runners, who seem comfortable under the high ball.  Impressive end to end passing brings rewards for the Quins as they get the first points on the board with a try five minutes in,  but a missed conversion could come back to haunt them.

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The Malone no.15, Peter Henderson, displays an impressive pace, quick on the counter. Play moves into the Quins half.  Not soon after the Quins give away a careless penalty, which narrows the gap to 5 – 3.  Both teams seem to be taking their time to get settled in this match, although weather conditions could not be better.   Another penalty and a disastrous line out for Quins keeps play in their own half.  An impressive interception from Malone, followed swiftly by a poor unnecessary pass leads to a turnover deep in Malone territory.

Scrums are being dominated by the Quins, mainly due to ill-discipline from Malone, and the fast thinking of Quins no.9 Josh Fullerton. Malone defence hold up under a barrage of Quins forwards only to give a penalty away right in front of the posts.

After kicking into Quins territory, Malone opt for a line out and supplement it with a powerful rolling maul which brings them to the try line.  Quins defence could do nothing, converted try to Malone bring the score to 11- 10.

The final twenty minutes of the first half saw a lack of concentration lead to silly mistakes, and yet another penalty at the scrum.  Now it’s the Quins making mistakes right in front of the posts.

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Quins try to rally with a thundering kick into Malone territory in closing ten minutes.  After an unsuccessful clear and an earth shattering double team tackle Malone have somehow got the ball, only to lose it soon after.  A lot of tired bodies and hands on hips as the two teams trudge into the changing rooms for half time.

Impressive line outs from Malone to start with but penalties are just as riff in the second half as the first.  The game has moments of brilliance but they are being undermined by handling errors.   Malone miss another penalty at the break down again, however a strong Malone defence leads to a turnover by Malone no. 11, Jay Malcolm and a line out at the Quins 25 meter line.  Another penalty in front of the posts and the solid kicking from Malone no. 10 James McKinney sends it over.

Quins scrambling a defence as Malone relentlessly push the line.  A metre from the try line and Malone give away a penalty and Quins gain some much needed breathing space.  A final missed penalty for Quins no.10 Mark Kettyle leaves the score board static.  A cheap penalty gave Malone the 25 – 14 lead in the 73rd minute.  The final 5 min consisted of each team trying to get the ball out of their own half, with no real try scoring drive.  Neither team shone in this contest, with the winner being decided through cheap penalties. Final score: Malone 25 Harlequins 14

Ulster dreams crushed by Saracens

Ulster 15 Saracens 17

Ravenhill came alive for Ulster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens.

Ulster clearly fed off the crowd’s energy and started the match with a high intensity approach.  Unfortunately, they paid for their aggression after just 5 minutes when Jared Payne saw red for a collision with Saracen’s full-back Alex Goode. While the offence itself was probably worthy of just a yellow, it seems the extent of Goode’s injury, who had to be stretchered off, forced the referee’s hand.

Ulster’s misery was compounded when Rory Best hobbled off with what appeared to be an ankle problem. Ruan Pienaar was also clearly struggling with his shoulder injury that had saw him sidelined for the last few weeks, but the South African managed to put Ulster in the lead with a well-taken penalty on the 15th minute.

Payne’s sending off forced Chris Henry into outhalf for Ulster, and it was the space he would have been occupying that saw Chris Ashton burst through to score Saracens’ first try. The Englishman’s trademark swan dive was met with contempt courtesy of the silenced Ulster crowd.

Ulster recovered magnificently for the rest of the half, putting on a very impressive display despite being a man down. Pienaar converted two penalties to put the hosts in the lead for the start of the second half. Saracens’ passed up many chances to utilise their man advantage down the flanks and were visibly frustrated.

Ulster opted to play the kicking game in the second half, but their plans were undone when a stray corner attempt saw Saracens’ work the ball back up the field for Mouritz Botha to stroll over the line. Owen Farrell, who had been on the receiving end of a rough reception from the Ulster faithful, missed his third kick of the night.

Saracens’ attacked the Ulster backline again and only for a textbook bit of play to hold up Schalk Brits on the line, would have extended their lead further. Unfortunately, it could not be repeated as Ashton again burst through the open space thanks to the man advantage to score their third try of the night.  Farrell landed the conversion.

The game got messy as Ulster went for it and Paddy Jackson, who had replaced Ruan Pienaar, scored two penalties to put Ulster within reach. Unfortunately, one last drive saw Saracens steal the ball at a lineout to keep Ulster at bay.