Bangor Grammar School 7 - 12 Royal School Armagh
by Simon Hull
Saturdays just aren't the same without rugby are they?
On Saturday, Bangor Grammar School's 1st XV welcomed Royal School Armagh to Gransha Road, for the first proper match of the new season. Armagh were the runners up in last season's Schools' Cup, so would be a formidable opposition, even though both sides had several players absent due to provincial representation.
Fittingly, it was new captain Rhys Larmour who had the honour of kicking the season off. With a slight tailwind behind, the ball flew straight into touch.
Armagh had the first 'semi' chance as some nice set up play allowed their tighthead prop to run clear of the Bangor defence. Fortunately, this was only temporary as Patrick Dobie tracked back well to send his opponent to the well manicured Gransha turf.
Moments later a penalty conceded by BGS on the halfway line allowed Armagh to kick to the corner. The lineout wasn't straight and Bangor had the benefit of placing the ball into the following scrum. From this, scrumhalf Oliver Hamilton was able to kick the ball clear of harm's way.
From here on, Armagh began to control possession and advance slowly up the pitch. Some more excellent Bangor defence on top of the try line kept the visitors out.
In the 8th minute, one of Armagh's wingers speedily chased a kick bouncing nicely into the goal zone. Fortunately for BGS, the try wasn't awarded as the referee brought play back for an earlier infringement.
Four minutes later, and the burgundy clad side were attacking dangerously again. Off the back of a scrum, quick hands from the Armagh #12 set up winger Ben Lavery to run through a gap and touch down for the first points of the match. Out-half Romain Morrow was tasked with the conversion, and successfully added 2 points.
Bangor Grammar didn't get much of the ball through the rest of the first half, but defended well to keep Armagh out. One of only a few Bangor attacks in the opening period came at the hands of Ryan Bull, making 20 or so metres from the halfway line, but spilt the ball when tackled. His colleague in the second row, Patrick Dobie had a similar chance shortly after, after fullback Lewis Hatty opened a gap with a darting run. Unfortunately neither chance amounted to anything. All throughout though, Armagh's well trained defensive wall was holding up, and impossible to penetrate.
As halftime drew near, Bangor were forcing that wall further back up the pitch, but still had no points on the board.
Rhys Larmour and Conor Lusty came very close for the hosts, attempting an audacious 1-2 whilst running at full pelt up the pitch. Sadly the final pass was just too far back for Larmour to control without knocking on.
Five minutes into the second half, and BGS had picked up where they had left off before the break. From a five metre scrum, Oliver Hamilton quickly passed the ball across the back line to Rhys Larmour, and then Conor Lusty making incredible gains towards the try line, and using rotation to full effect. Lusty managed to get the ball to ground scoring Bangor Grammar's first points of the season. Rhys Larmour was on target with the kick. Momentum now with Bangor it would seem.
Over the last few seasons, we've really seen big improvements in Bangor's defensive abilities - credit to the coaches. Throughout the second half, the team managed to hold off Armagh time and time again, then either kick or play the ball out to safety.
That made it harder to take when Nicholas Jennings of Royal Armagh managed to drag his way through four Bangor men and score... actually almost identical to Conor Lusty's try earlier. The conversion this time was missed.
This try gave Armagh an edge again, which wouldn't be overturned. They hung on for a slender victory.
Last year the score was 34-7 to Armagh, so if statistics are anything to go by, Bangor have made big improvements over the last 12 months. The action on the pitch seems to back that up as well. This result bodes very well for the year ahead. Using last season as a form guide, we've just been narrowly beaten by the second team in Ulster.
It is very early days, but if the players missing can reintegrate themselves well into the team, who knows what we can achieve this year.
Final Score: Bangor Grammar School 7 - 12 Royal School Armagh
Teamsheet: 1. Skelly, 2. Moore, 3. Cavan, 4. Bull, 5. Dobie, 6. Winters, 7. Murray, 8. Pritchard, 9. Hamilton, 10. Larmour, 11. Angus, 12. Lusty, 13. Stewart, 14. Simpson, 15. Hatty.
Used Substitutes: N/A
BGS Tries: Conor Lusty
BGS Conv: Rhys Larmour
RSA Tries: Ben Lavery, Nicolas Jennings
RSA Conv: Romain Morrow