BATEMAN CUP FINAL
After a long and demanding season City of Armagh did Ulster proud as they valiantly competed against a Garryowen side who proved too strong on the day - winning 45 – 21 to win the Bateman Cup. Coaches Willie Faloon and Chris Parker have done so much with this playing squad during the season as the team established itself in Div 1B after securing promotion through the playoffs. The players will be delighted that their efforts were rewarded by the team retaining the First Trust Senior Cup.
ALL IRELAND PLAY OFFS
Well done to Queens University and Rainey OB on reaching their Playoff finals. Malone will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of their Ulster neighbours when they travel to Cork to play UCC in their semi final match. Head coach Paddy Armstrong is stepping down at the end of the season and will be looking to end his three years as Head coach by steering Malone into Div 1A.
DOMESTIC PROVINCIAL RUGBY
The good weather certainly brought the crowds out at the weekend to watch play off matches in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship and the two Cup Finals at the Kingspan stadium. First up was the playoff match played at Blaris between Lisburn and Monaghan. The game did not disappoint for the sizeable crowd with Lisburn having to withstand the efforts of a dominant Monaghan pack to take their chances and win 24 – 17. Head coach Nathan Moore will be hoping to strengthen his playing squad in the off season as Lisburn look to move away from the lower reaches of Div 2. Monaghan will be disappointed they could not turn all their possession and territory into points.
Easter Monday witnessed 1500 spectators turning up for the two Cup Finals at the Kingspan stadium. First up was the McCrea Cup Final with the power of the Grosvenor pack providing the cutting edge as they ran in seven tries with out half Peter Davison scoring two tries and his half back partner Allen McCluggage contributing 18 points. The score line may have flattered Grosvenor as the young Queens team played their part in a highly entertaining game of rugby with centre Rory Nicholl scoring a brace of tries. Grosvenor coaches Robert Ford and Peter Lowry will be delighted with this Cup success to back up their 4th place league finish and qualification for the All Ireland Junior Cup. In their first season incharge - Grosvenor missed out on promotion from Div 2 to Div 1 in 2016/17 losing out to Coleraine and CIYMS by one point. They made up for this disappointment by going through Div 2 undefeated in 2017/18 to secure the automatic promotion place to Div 1.
In the River Rock Towns Cup Final Enniskillen caused a major upset by defeating holders Ballyclare 19 – 0. Loose head prop Gavin Warrington maintained his amazing try scoring record by scoring a brace to make it 13 tries this season for a prop forward. It was the manner in which this powerful Enniskillen pack dominated the game from start to finish along with their defensive effort that shocked this Ballyclare team. The team had lost their last two final appearances against Ballynahinch seconds and Bangor and had clearly prepared well over the three week break - with coaches Stevie Welsh and Steven Fox delighted with the response from the players since Xmas - that has witnessed the team retain their place in Div 1. It has been a marvellous season for the club with the 2nd xv winning the Crawford Plate and securing promotion from Provincial 3. The 3rds won the regional Premier league. The clubs under 18 team play Rainey this weekend in the Ulster Carpets Plate Final at the Mid Ulster Arena.
Ballyclare Head coach Mike McKeever will be disappointed his playing squad failed to win the league and retain the Towns Cup this season. As he will have witnessed this season - to win leagues and trophies you need a strong front five. He will have learned from how his pack were overwhelmed by the Enniskillen forwards as he builds for next season. To compete in the All Ireland Junior Cup - Round Robin and the All Ireland League you need a strong front five.
I was delighted to see successful under 20 tournaments being held at Malone, Ballymoney and Instonians over the weekend with Bangor winning both the Malone and Instonians competitions.
Can I thank Instonians, Malone, Bangor, Omagh and Dungannon rugby clubs for publishing my previews on their websites during the season along with In Touch Rugby and Ulster Rugby. Rugby clubs are Community Sporting facilities and need to ensure they maximise their opportunities to engage with the wider community using their digital platforms.
RESULTS/TEAM LISTS WEEKEND 20TH APRIL 2019
ALL IRELAND BATEMAN CUP FINAL
City of Armagh 21 Garryowen 45
City of Armagh team: 1. Paul Mullen, 2. Jonny Morton, 3. Philip Fletcher, 4. Peter Starrett, 5. Josh McKinley, 6. Nigel Simpson, 7. Robert Whitten, 8. Neil Faloon, 9. Harry Doyle, 10. Harry Boyd, 11. Shea O’Brien, 12. Jonny Pollock, 13. Chris Colvin (Capt), 14. Evin Crummie, 15. Tim McNeice, 16. Oisin Kiernan, 17. Andrew Smyth, 18. James Hanna, 19. James Morton, 20. Gerard Treanor, 21. Cormac Fox, 22 Andrew Willis, 23. Chris Cousens, 24. Stephen Morton.
Points scorers: Chris Colvin, Andrew Willis, Shea O’Brien 1 x try each, Harry Boyd 1 x con, Cormac Fox 2 x cons.
ALL IRELAND LEAGUE PLAYOFF RESULTS
DIVISION 1B PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY OFF SEMI - FINALS
Cashel 3 Navan RFC 7
Buccaneers 24 Queens University 30
Queens University team: 1. Brian Cunningham, 2. Alexander Clarke, 3. Matthew Millar, 4. Ali Burke, 5. David Whitten (Capt), 6. Andrew McGrath, 7. David Swann, 8. James Catterson, 9. Matthew Keane, 10. Richie McMaster, 11. Jonny Hunter, 12. Conor McKee, 13. Rory Bell, 14. Mark Keane, 15. Michael Orr, 16. Andrew Weir, 17. Curtis Pollock, 18. Martin Withers, 19. James Longwell, 20. Robbie Johnston, 21. Conor McAuley, 22. Conor Shiels.
Points scorers: Rory Bell, Mark Keane, Matthew Keane 1 x try each, Richie McMaster 3 x pens and 3 x cons ( 15 x points).
DIVISION 2A PROMOTIONAL/RELEGATION PLAY OFF SEMI FINALS
Blackrock College 28 Sligo 27
Greystones 20 Rainey OB 23
Rainey OB team: 1. Jack McIntosh, 2. Brad Roberts, 3. Kieran Donaghy, 4. Timmy Barker, 5. John McCusker, 6. Charlie Clarke, 7. Paul Pritchard (Capt), 8. Paddy Magowan, 9. Jason Bloomfield, 10. Andrew Magrath, 11. Oisin Quinn, 12. Damien McMurray, 13. Conor Fitzsimons, 14. Andrew Donaghy, 15. Michael O’Neill, 16. Fintan Quinn, 17. Aidan McSwiggan, 18. Daniel O’Neill, 19. Andrew Harbinson, 20. Mattie Millar, 21. Lorcan Quinn, 22. Scott McLean.
Points scorers: Andrew Donaghy, Oisin Quinn 1 x try each, Andrew Magrath 2 x pens and 2 x cons, Scott McLean 1 x pen.
DIVISION 2B PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY OFF SEMI FINALS
Skerries 22 Malahide 34
Midleton 28 Bruff 38
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
DIVISION 2/3 PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAYOFF
Lisburn 24 Monaghan 17
Newry 5 Donaghadee 63
KINGSPAN CUP FINALS EASTER MONDAY 22ND APRIL 2019
McCREA CUP FINAL
Grosvenor 50 Queens University seconds 19
Grosvenor team: 1. Mark Rainey, 2. Stuart Smyth, 3. Pearce Jamison, 4. Matthew Cahoon, 5. Willie Rea, 6. Sam Purdon, 7. Connor McKee, 8. Andrew Kelly (Capt), 9. Allen McCluggage, 10. Peter Davison, 11. David Egner, 12. Jos McConkey, 13. Ben Coard, 14. Jonny Farquhar, 15. Adam Skelton, 16. Matthew Allen, 17. Daniel Bowden, 18. Ben Davies, 19. Neil Adams, 20. Stuart McIIwaine.
Points scorers: Peter Davison 2 x tries, Josh McConkey, Matthew Cahoon, Matthew Allen, Andrew Kelly 1 x try each, Allen McCluggage 1 x try, 5 x cons and 1 x pen (18 x points), Adam Skelton 1 x con.
Queens University seconds team: 1. Johnny Black, 2. Jack Sleator, 3. Toby Jozwiak, 4. Callum Cardwell, 5. Martin Withers, 6. Andrew Walker, 7. Daniel Edgar, 8. Chris Fowler, 9. James Creighton, 10. Daniel Keane, 11. Chris Jennings, 12. Curtis Dundas, 13. Rory Nicholl, 14. Fal El Vave, 15. Mark Gordon, 16. Alex Elmore, 17. Remy Rees Goddard, 18. Matthew Pentland, 19. Matthew McSorley, 20. Josh Rawlinson.
Points scorers: Rory Nicholl 2 x tries, Daniel Keane 2 x pens and 1 x con.
RIVER ROCK TOWNS CUP FINAL
Ballyclare 0 Enniskillen 19
Ballyclare team: 1. Dean Jones, 2. Matthew Coulter, 3. Al Boyd, 4. Robert Boyd, 5. Grant Bartley (Capt), 6. Aaron Playfair, 7. Gary Weatherup, 8. Dave Clarke, 9. Andy Eastop, 10. Robbie Reid, 11. Michael Kirk, 12. Ross Patterson, 13. Joel McBride, 14. Owen Kirk, 15. Gary Clotworthy, 16. Jack Black, 17. Jordan Birnie, 18. Ryan Tweed, 19. Ryan McIIwaine, 20. Stephen Beasant.
Enniskillen team: 1. Gavin Warrington, 2. Ryan Cathcart (Capt), 3. Gareth Beatty, 4. Jamie Kelly, 5. David Buchanan, 6. Gavin Parke, 7. James Carleton, 8. Ricky Lee, 9. Nick Finlay, 10. Adam Lendrum, 11. Conor Hoy, 12. Mark O’Shea, 13. James Ferguson, 14. Tyler Millar, 15. Ashley Finlay, 16. Steven Fox, 17. Alan Ferguson, 18. Jack Rutledge, 19. John Arnold, 20. Matthew Dane.
Points scorers: Gavin Warrington 2 x tries, Ricky Lee 1 x try, Nick Finlay 2 x cons.
FIXTURES SATURDAY 27TH APRIL 2019
ALL IRELAND PLAYOFFS
DIVISION 1A SEMI FINALS
Clontarf v Lansdowne
Cork Constitution v Dublin University. Played Sunday 28.4.19 KO 2.30PM
DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/ RELEGATION PLAY OFF SEMI FINALS
UCC v Malone
Paddy Armstrong Malone Head coach: Team will be announced on Thursday with the coach waiting to hear on the injury status on a couple of players. He is expecting the same team that played against Ballymena especially in the pack to start against UCC. Full back Jack Owens has been retained by Ulster. Paddy Armstrong is delighted the players have made the playoffs in their first year in Div 1B. UCC are a quality side and will be a big challenge for the Malone team at the Mardyke – one his players are looking forward to. A lot of the credit for the success of the team this season has to go to coaches Mark Taylor, Josh Pentland and Chris Henry who have done a superb job with the players throughout the season.
Old Wesley v Naas. Played Sunday 28.4.19 KO 4PM
DIVISION 1B PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAYOFF FINAL
Navan RFC v Queens University
Ian McAvoy Queens President/1st xv Manager: Queens had to dig deep defensively in the final minutes of their 30 – 24 win over Buccaneers at Dubarry Park to make the Playoff Final. Wingers Mark Keane and Jonny Hunter played crucial roles in this match with Keane scoring a fine individual try and Hunter winning a crucial turnover late in the game as the students defended their line. Navan with be difficult opposition for Queens as the County Meath side go for their third promotion in three years. They won Div 2C in 2016/17 and came through the playoffs in 2017/18 after defeating Rainey OB at Hatrick Park to take their place in Div 2A. They have finished 3rd this season and won their playoff semi- final 7 – 3 at Cashel RFC who finished second. Queens have won eight from nine AIL games in 2019 with their only loss coming at Cashel RFC.
For the game at Balreask coaches Derek Suffern and DJ Creighton have Ulster Academy prospect Ben Power released to play this week with the squad expected to be on similar lines to the side that played at Buccaneers. There was disappointment for the clubs second team who lost their McCrea Cup Final against Grosvenor. They have a crucial playoff match with Malone seconds at Gibson Park this week for a place in the 2nd xv league and Conference league next season.
DIVISION 2A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAYOFF FINAL
Blackrock College v Rainey OB
John Andrews Rainey OB Head coach: Rainey lost their playoff final last season against Navan conceding a score six minutes into injury time. They had to work hard for their win at Greystones last weekend. The coach felt the team had the opportunity to close out their game in the first half at Greystones. They established a 10 – 0 lead only to allow Greystones back into the match to level the score at 10 – 10. The second half was a backs to wall job with the team receiving three yellow cards that reduced the team to 13 players at one stage. With the game tied at 20 – 20 and the team reduced to 14 players it was young Scott McLean who stepped up to convert a penalty to give his team a 23 – 20 lead. The drama was not over as Greystones almost snatched a late winner with Rainey hanging on for the win.
Rainey will retain the same squad that played at Greystones for the trip to Stradbrook this week. The coaches are considering one change to the back row with Andy Harbinson expected to start. Blackrock eventually got the win over Sligo 28 – 27 after the visitors had to deal with five yellow cards being handed out to their team during the match.
DIVISION 2B PROMOTION/RELEGATIONPLAY OFF FINAL
Malahide v Bruff
DIVISION 2C PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAYOFF FINAL
Seapoint v Clonmel
WOMENS PROVINCIAL QUALIFYING LEAGUE FINAL
Malone v Suttonians . Energia Park, KO 12.30PM
WOMENS ALL IRELAND LEAGUE FINAL
Railway Union v UL Bohemians. Energia Park. KO 3PM
2nd xv LEAGUE/ PROVINCIAL 1 PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAYOFF
Malone seconds v Queens University seconds. Gibson Park. KO 2.30PM
YOUTH FINALS: MID ULSTER SPORTS ARENA : COOKSTOWN
ULSTER CARPETS U18 PLATE FINAL
Enniskillen v Rainey OB KO 1.30PM
ULSTER CARPETS U 16 PLATE FINAL
Omagh v Letterkenny KO 12.00
ULSTER CARPETS U14 PLATE FINAL
City of Armagh v Bangor KO 10.45 AM
This is my last Domestic Rugby preview for the season 2018/19. I hope the content of the preview continues to encourage discussion and address issues that impact on the club game in Ulster. Can I thank you all for your continued support and look forward to seeing you all again for the 2019/20 season.