BANN U-14s 29 CARRICK U-14s 17
An outstanding team performance saw Bann’s Under-14 side claim the Ulster League Championship for the first time in their history.
Jamie Carville could rightly lay claim to the Man-of-the-Match award, the flying centre having touched down for four of his side’s five tries. But Coach Noel Irwin was quick to point out that the success had its basis on a very solid performance by the Bann pack. “The key to that win was up front,” he said as the players celebrated. “Jamie got his four tries but there was much more to it than that. The forwards were excellent, there was plenty of movement and we moved the ball quickly to the flanks to create those scoring opportunities.”
Bann were under the cosh early in the game and a fine mis-pass put the Carrick left winger in for an unconverted try in the 5thminute. Bann hit back 11 minutes later, Carville racing clear of the Carrick midfield defence on a 60 metre run to the posts, with Dennis Kerr adding the conversion.
Rhys Smith and Jacob Henry were held out short of the Carrick line, but when the ball was transferred down the short side Carville forced his way over at the corner for a 12-5 interval lead.
Carrick were right back in the game thanks to a converted try five minutes after the break. But the response from the Rifle Park was swift. Kerr’s well-placed chip behind the Carrick lines was re-gathered and good hands enabled Carville to go over in the corner for his hat-trick.
Bann went further ahead on 38 minutes, No 8 Scott Craig capping an outstanding individual performance with a try that rounded off concerted pressure on the Carrick line. Kerr’s conversion attempt rebounded off the upright but Bann were now 10 points clear.
The Co Antrim side, which had already got the better of Bann in their two previous outings this season, were far from a spent force. Twelve minutes from the end their strong-running centre found a gap in the Bann lines to scorch over for his team’s third try, leaving the game balanced at 22-17.
But when Kerr’s re-start was mis-fielded Bann pounced on the loose ball and two passes later Carville was racing behind the Carrick posts, with Kerr adding the conversion points to finish the scoring.
Bann’s scrummaging was excellent throughout, with the Carrick eight struggling to provide clean ball on their own put-in. Hooker Andrew Cairns and skipper Craig worked effectively to provide quality lineout ball and half-backs Todd Bryson and Kerr were a very effective unit, whose game management and decision-making kept their team on the front foot.
But every player who took the field for Bann throughout the competition played his part as Coach Irwin was quick to acknowledge. “They’ve been a great bunch all season. The kids have been very, very special. They’ve listened and responded to what we’ve been trying to get them to do, they’ve worked hard in training and they’ve got their reward. Happy days!”
The Bann team that won the Ulster League:- Conor Corrigan, Isaac Finch, Callum Fitzgerald, Jamie Carville, Ethan Dickson, Dennis Kerr, Todd Bryson, Thomas McGrath, Andrew Cairns, Jacob Henry, Pearse Magill, Emmett Magill, Rhys Smith, Rian Evans, Scott Craig (Capt). Replacements:- William McAllen, Ross McKee, Ben Doyle, Callum Toal, Tom Ewart.