History was created for Ballyclare Secondary School last Wednesday (1st March) as their Medallion rugby team beat Grosvenor Grammar, 12-10, under floodlights at Eaton Park in the final of the Medallion Trophy to become the first rugby team, from the school, to win a Medallion trophy.
It has been a very successful season for the Medallion and U16 rugby teams under the coaching of Mr Andrew Cowden, Mr Stephen McGuigan and former pupil Paul McGookin.
Ballyclare Secondary were drawn against local rivals Larne Grammar in the first round of the Medallion Shield in what was only Ballyclare Secondary’s second ever time entering the competition. Ballyclare Secondary romped to a deserved 42-12 victory over Larne Grammar which included a hat-trick of tries for Jack Milton and two a piece for James Wilson and Ross Warren. Ross also converted two of the tries and kicked one penalty. Ballyclare were given a difficult second round fixture away to their High School rivals Dromore HS. In what was a very entertaining fixture for the neutral, Dromore High School won 48-29. This result put Ballyclare Secondary into the Medallion Trophy along with Rainey Endowed, Regent House, Carrick Grammar and Antrim Grammar to name a few. Ballyclare received a bye in the first round and were drawn against Lurgan College in the quarter final. This game marked the first competitive rugby match to be played, by the school, on a Saturday morning and what an occasion this turned out to be with Ballyclare Secondary winning 32-3, with a double from Jack Milton and a try each for Ross Warren, James Wilson and Matthew Simpson. Warren kicked one conversion and a penalty and Simpson converted one try.
Ballyclare Secondary were then drawn against Wellington College in the semi-final, with Ballyclare dominating this game from start to finish winning 40-5 with tries from Matthew Simpson, Josh Catherwood, James Wilson, Ross Warren and Jack Milton.
This presented a wait for Ballyclare Secondary to see who they would face in the final with Rainey Endowed and Grosvenor Grammar drawing 5-5 in their semi-final, forcing at reply which Grosvenor won 24-14.
In the eagerly awaited showpiece, played in front of a very healthy crowd in very difficult weather conditions at Eaton Park, Ballyclare Secondary got of to a great start in the first quarter, being camped on the Grosvenor line twice but a lack of patience and unforced errors caused them leaving with no points. The rest of the first half was evenly contested with Grosvenor kicking a penalty with the last play of the first half, which saw them leading 3-0 at the break. Ballyclare Secondary again started the second half stronger and captain Jack Milton scored Ballyclare’s first try of the game and Matthew Simpson converted to put Ballyclare into a 7-3 lead. However, shortly after they scored, a switch off in concentration by Ballyclare allowed Grosvenor to score a converted try and they led 10-7 with around 12 minutes remaining. Following an excellent driving maul of a lineout, inside the Grosvenor 22, Ballyclare retained possession following several phases, Jack Milton spotted a gap in the Grosvenor defence and went through to score his and his team’s second try. Unfortunately, Simpson hit the post with the conversion to leave Ballyclare leading 12-10 with approximately 5 minutes to go. This was not the end of the drama as Grosvenor was given a penalty in the final minute to win the trophy, however this was dragged narrowly wide. Ballyclare saw out the final play of the game and to claim their first ever Medallion trophy.
It was very evident to see how much this iconic victory meant to the players, staff, parents and the whole school community at the end of the final whistle. This is the second grammar school competition success within a year for the Secondary, as the 1st XV won the 3rd XV plate last March.
Coach Mr Andrew Cowden commented after the game “I am absolutely delighted for the boys; they are an extremely dedicated, determined and talented group of players, who are an absolute pleasure to work with. I think on the balance of play we deserved our victory, however it could have gone either way. It was a great team performance with many contributions all over the pitch in very difficult conditions. The boys deserve a huge amount of credit for their outstanding achievement and putting our school further onto the schools’ rugby map.” He went on to say that “after the Dromore defeat the boys set winning this trophy as one of their goals”.
Mr Cowden went on to thank all of the supporters from the community “On behalf of the players, Mr McGuigan and myself would like to thank all staff, past pupils, current pupils, parents, members of Ballyclare RFC and people from our community who came to support our school. We were certainly overwhelmed by the amount support from the whole school community.”
Squad: (1-15) Dylan Coyle, Jordan Wilson, Ben Evans, Harry Farren, Joshua Kennedy, Josh Catherwood, James Wilson, Jack Milton (Captain), Matthew Simpson, Ross Warren, Jim McKernon, Samuel Wilson, Adam Shields, Scott Richmond, Adam Warren
Subs: James Henderson and William Stewart
Coaches: Mr Andrew Cowden, Mr Stephen McGuigan and Mr Paul McGookin