BANN’S U13 side, sponsored by The Leader, came through two tough games in four days to emerge winners of the Ulster Plate competition.
It was a superb effort by a small squad, who having come through as 36-29 winners of Wednesday’s night’s semi-final against Donegal, travelled to Clogher Valley on Saturday morning to beat Virginia in the final on a 3-1 try count.
The battle against Donegal had produced 11 tries in total, with Bann edging home thanks to scores from Josh Chambers, Charlie Jones, Jack Flanagan, William Cousins (2) and Toby Baxter, together with three conversions from Flanagan.
Virginia were in control in the early stages of the final as they took advantage of four penalties conceded by Bann in the opening 12 minutes to dominate possession and territory.
Eventually Ross Cartmill’s long kick to touch cleared the immediate danger. Having weathered that initial storm Bann set about testing the Virginia defence, with Alistair McDowell and Matthew Blain putting in strong runs. When Virginia tried to counter the strong midfield tackling of Cartmill and Dubem Ajeh snuffed out the moves before they could gather momentum.
Bann opened the scoring on 21 minutes after winning a scrum against the head. A loose pass was picked up by Ajeh and he switched the direction of the attack to find a gap in the Virginia defence and cross for an unconverted try.
Three minutes later No 8 Cousins picked up from the base of a scrum 30 metres out, neatly side-stepped a defender and sprinted home for the second try, with Flanagan’s conversion taking the score to 12-0..
Bann finished the half on the attack after Chambers fielded the re-start and, supported by McDowell and Blain, drove Virginia back into their own territory.
With Bann’s lineout operating efficiently, Jones put in a fine run early in the second half to keep Virginia on the back foot. Midway through the half Bann won three penalties as the opposition struggled to contain the forward drives. The third was kicked to touch to set up an attacking line-out. The ball was won cleanly and transferred slickly to Ajeh who sprinted in from 25 metres range.
Virginia continued to give it their best and were rewarded with an unconverted try, but Bann re-asserted themselves, setting Ajeh off on a blistering 50 metre run that ensured the closing minutes were played out in the opposition half.
Coming on the back of the gruelling encounter with Donegal this was a disciplined performance from a side well-drilled by coaches John Shannon, John Mullan and Martin Chambers.
All seventeen members of the squad were involved, with injured captain Ben Thompson also on hand to cheer his team-mates on and watch his deputy Toby Baxter lead the end-of-match celebrations.