Fantastic Friends’ are the Ulster Schools’ Medallion Champions 2015

Friends' School Medallion rugby squad were crowned Ulster Schools' Medallion Sevens Champions at the weekend.
Friends' School Medallion rugby squad were crowned Ulster Schools' Medallion Sevens Champions at the weekend.

The Ulster Schools’ Medallion 7s Competition was held at Campbell College on Saturday March 21, with schools from across the Province competing for the title, in a tournament held annually at the close of the season.

The Friends’ School team’s opening encounter in the group stages was Limavady Grammar School.

Friends’ got off to a perfect start with a 41-0 win. Ben McCaughey and George Pringle demonstrated why their half back partnership has been so effective this year at Medallion level as they scored five tries between them, each able to dissect the Limavady defence at will.

Another Ben McCaughey hat-trick along with tries from George Pringle, Leon Eley and Ross Gillespie saw off Friends’ next opponents, Omagh Academy, by 34-7. The Friends’ team had found a comfortable rhythm, easily avoiding tackles and picking superb lines of running, a pattern that would continue for the whole tournament.

The third game in the group stages saw the team face the hosts, a much fancied Campbell College side. In a performance full of hard running and tackling the Friends’ boys dominated the game and ran out 22-7 winners, further building their confidence from previous games. Bradley Mulholland deserves credit for his ferocious defensive effort and work at the breakdown in this game. 
The final group game against Portora Royal School decided the group winners, as Portora too were undefeated after their three matches.

In this contest, with both sides striving to finish top of the group, Friends’ emerged 28 – 5 winners, with tries well spread across the team as Ben McCaughey (2), Ross Gillespie, Leon Eley and George Pringle scored the points.

Friends’, as group winners, went forward into the quarter final against Cambridge House, runners up to Belfast Royal Academy in their group stages. 

As the competition progressed, so too did the physical toll taken by a series of tough matches, and although Friends’ conceded 17 points in the quarter final they scored six excellent tries to win 36-17 with Connor Mason, James Scott and Bradley Mulholland showing the depth of talent in the squad by crossing the try line.

The semi-final was against Dalriada School, who had emerged as table toppers from a group containing Medallion Shield winners RBAI and semi-finalists Sullivan Upper. This was an exciting precursor to the final as both teams scored four tries each. However, three conversions from Ben McCaughey ensured the Magheralave Road men progressed to the final by 26 points to 21 to face a highly fancied Sullivan side. 

Just as Irish rugby supporters held their breath as England and France battled it out in the Six Nations, so too did the spectators as Friends’ took on Sullivan. The final was a physical, frantic yet high quality game befitting the occasion.

Sullivan got off to the better start and Friends’ went into half time a score behind. Determined not to go down, the Friends’ team fought back to snatch an exciting victory 26-24, with George Pringle, Ben McCaughey (three conversions), Bradley Mulholland and Ross Gillespie scoring the tries to crown a great season for the Friends’ team.

The result bodes well for the future of Friends’ Rugby as the players are very much looking forward to senior rugby next year in order to build on their strong performances this season. 

Rugby Co-ordinator and Head of PE Ivor Monaghan thanked coaches Mark Henderson and Hugh McCaughey who have both coached 7s at a high level and Jamie Artt for their work with the team throughout the year. Mr Monaghan commented that the trophy was a result of hard work and commitment throughout the year from boys and coaches alike.