Four age-grade teams were in action on Friday afternoon, all against USA touring team, EIRA (Eagle Impact Rugby Academy) at Queen’s Sport and Newforge Country Club.
Up first at QUB were the newly-created Ulster U16 Girls' squad, with many of the players getting a first taste of 15-a-side rugby at this level. The EIRA side proved to be too strong for Ulster, and kept the home side scoreless.
Winger, Erin McConalogue came closest to scoring in the third quarter, after making a fantastic break down the left wing, but resolute EIRA defence meant she was wrestled into touch before the try line.
The young squad got great exposure to competitive 15s rugby against a very physical American team.
Ulster U16 Girls team: Abbie Alexander, Abi Carson, Anna Sloan, Anna-Rose McNally, Beth McBurney, Cara McLean, Ciara O’Dowd, Codie McCloskey, Ella Mark, Emily Dickson, Erin McConalogue, Grace Simati, Hannah Lee, Hannah Lennon, Jessica Wilkinson, Kate Farrell, Lauren Whyte, Leah Irwin, Lily Reaney, Lucy Calvin, Madeline Hamill, Maebh Clerkin, Megan Creighton, Niamh Fulton, Orlaith Breen, Rebecca Anderson, Ruby Starrett, Sadhbh Spratt-Wells, Sarah Corry, Sarah Johnston, Sophie McAllister, Victoria Bothwell.
The Deloitte Ulster U18 Girls then took on their EIRA age-grade equivalents. Similar to the U16s' game, the U18s struggled to contend with the power and physicality of the American side, who claimed a convincing win over the hosts.
Although Ulster didn't register a score, back-row, Moya Hill made a strong carry only to be held up over the line in the opening few minutes. Full-back, Lucy Thompson and back-row, Sarah Shrestha both broke EIRA defences in the second half, but the visiting side did well to recover and shut down their attack.
Deloitte Ulster U18 Girls team: Aisling McEnroe, Cara O’Kane, Christy Hill, Elle Corkey, Ellie-Louise McCall, Emma McArdle, Georgia Boyce, Hannah Mahood, Jessica Kelly, Jodie Russell, Kaitlyn Graham, Katie-Anne McCallion, Katie Gilmour, Lucy Thompson, Maebh Clenaghan, Maia Finane, Mia Ferguson, Molly Boyd, Moya Hill, Niamh Johnston, Olivia Black, Rebecca Mann, Sadhbh McGrath, Sarah Roberts, Sarah Shrestha, Scarlett Keys, Seonaidh Douthart, Sophie Barrett, Sophie McAllister, Sophie Meeke, Tamzin Boyce, Tara O’Neill, Zara Hutchinson.
In the first of 2 games played at Newforge, Head Coach Ricky Andrew saw his U18 Boy's Schools side work hard to record a victory over the Americans. The visitors started the game well, running in an early try. Ulster struck back through RBAI loosehead Blake McClean, who rumbled over from close range with Jordan McAuley of Coleraine Grammar adding the extras.
Campbell College's Will Alexander finished off a maul to extend the Ulster lead, before EIRA's centres combined to run in a try from their own 22. Ulster made sure of the win when Ballymena Academy prop Josh Harvey produced an opportunistic finish in the corner, with Josh Watterson of RS Armagh knocking over the conversion to round off the scoring for the province.
Tries: Blake McClean, Will Alexander, Josh Harvey
Cons: Jordan McAuley, Josh Watterson
Danske Bank Ulster U18 Boys’ Schools team: Archie Johnson, Ben Armstrong, Callum Mustoe, Chris Massey, Conan Scullion, David Gillespie, Finn Fehnert, Jack Parkinson, James Hillman, Jordan McAuley, Josh Bunting, Josh Harvey, Josh Watterson, Joshua Hanna, Lewis Doherty, Noah McCluskey, Oliver Scott, Reece Williamson, Rian Davis, Rory Fulton, Ryan Kidd, Sean McKay, Tom Coulter, Tom McAllister, Will Alexander, Blake McClean, Callum Irvine, Josh Gibson, Michael McLean, Quinn Armstrong, Thomas Dougan, Oliver Berry, Charlie Gray, Callum Soper.
The final game of the day took place at Newforge, when Neill Alcorn's side ran in 8 tries in a comprehensive win. Captain Oliver Neill of Methody was the standout player as he scored a hat-trick.
He collected a smart inside pass to cross for his first before his school teammate Tyrese Abolarin also touched down off a lineout maul, as the forwards continued to dominate. Wallace High School's Daniel Macklin-Copleland crashed over under the posts, before Rainey Endowed lock Rossa Bell finished well in the corner.
Neill soon grabbed his second try, finishing well after sustained phases of pressure, before RBAI loosehead Reagan Lath collected a loose ball from an EIRA lineout inside the 22 and showed great power and composure to break several tackles and score under the sticks. Friends' centre Joel Barron raced in to continue the scoring, before Neill completed his hat trick by smashing through a few tackles before touching down.
Tries: Oliver Neill (3), Tyrese Abolarin, Daniel Macklin-Copeland, Rossa Bell, Reagan Lath, Joel Barron
Cons: Ollie Berry (5), Fraser Cunningham (2)
Danske Bank Ulster U17 Boys’ Schools team: Aaron Caldwell, Angus Crawford, Bobby Newell, Calum McKinney, Connor Mckenna, Daniel Macklin-Copleland, Ed Thomas, Fraser Cunningham, Jack McNeilly, Jake Woods, Jay McCord, Joel Barron, Josh Geddis, Lewis Stevenson, Loughlin Sweeney, Nathan Noble, Ollie Berry, Oliver Neill, Reagan Lath, Reece Graham, Rio McDonagh, Rossa Bell, Toby Newman, Toby Stewart, Tom Wylie, Tyrese Abolarin, William Sproule, Zakir Majid.
Gallery from the four games to follow.