Friends’ battle to third round of Schools’ Cup

Friends’ School, Lisburn team overcame their pre-match billing as underdogs, having lost to the same opposition just before Christmas, to put on an impressive performance in this game and emerge as deserved winners.

Intensity and physicality from the outset was high with both teams struggling to gain a foothold in the early stages of the game.

Friends' David Stewart during Saturday's Danske Bank Ulster Schools Cup 2nd round game at Chambers Park, Portadown. Photo by William Cherry

Friends' David Stewart during Saturday's Danske Bank Ulster Schools Cup 2nd round game at Chambers Park, Portadown. Photo by William Cherry

Portadown peppered the Friends’ defence and forced penalties from the Lisburn side. The stalemate broke with a Friends’ penalty proving costly and gave the Portadown College team a 3-0 lead when fly half, Michael Orr, converted the penalty kick.

They continued to put pressure on the Friends’ School team but got little out of an unyielding defence.

Eventually, the Friends’ School team got points on the board when David Stewart converted a penalty kick following a Portadown College infringement at the breakdown.

More and more penalties were then conceded by Friends’ at the lineouts but it was a mistake on the ground which set up another chance for Portadown to take a shot at the posts. The chance was taken and converted once again by Michael Orr to put his team into a 6-3 lead.

The Friends’ School team responded positively and took play deep into the Portadown College 22m area. The physicality of the Portadown defence kept the Friends’ attack at bay and a crucial knock on by the Friends’ School team close to the line ensured the teams turned around at half time with the Portadown College team 6-3 ahead.

The second half told a different story with four tries scored. Within the first five minutes of the restart Friends’ hit with power and pace through Chris Nesbitt.

Three phases later the ball went blind and some good offloading play set winger, Alex O’Brien, off down the touch line. He cut through a number of despairing defenders to touch down for the first try of the game, which was not converted to give the Friends’ School team an 8-6 lead.

The second try came shortly after in much the same manner. The restart came to James Maxwell and after moving the ball side to side David Newell was released to run in for an unconverted to increase the Friends’ School lead to 13-6.

Portadown would not let their heads drop and came back with the intent to score. They stepped up their intensity took play deep into the Friends’ half. With strong carries from Matthew Neill and James Wright forcing the Friends’ School team into making mistakes the home team was rewarded with a try from Ryan Daly. The try was not converted but Portadown College had reduced the deficit to 13-11.

However, Friends’ then went on to seal their victory when Adam Schoffield, Adam Milligan and Kirk McGrady all combined to send Bart Campbell in for a try. David Stewart added the extras to ensure it was the Friends’ School, Lisburn team that finished this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Round 2 game as 20-11 winners.

Friends’ have been drawn against Schools’ Cup favorites Campbell College in Round 3 and the game will be played at Friends’ School Lisburn on Saturday 6th February (10:30am Kick off). All support welcome.