There is a well-established rugby tradition at Friends’ School with the coaching staff giving up a considerable amount of time both after school and on Saturdays to develop the individual and team skills of the players at all age levels. Each new season brings new team members and new challenges, with every coach and team looking for ways to improve and move forward.
Friend’s School field seven rugby teams from 1st XV to U12s on a regular basis playing Saturday fixtures against comparable Ulster schools while midweek fixtures are organised for “B” teams and the 3rd XV.
Head of PE and Rugby Co-ordinator, Mr Monaghan (Medallion and U12) is assisted by Mr Robinson and Mr Gamble (Senior squads); Mr Artt (U14s), Mr Williamson (U13s) and Mr Jamison (U12s). School staff are assisted by external coaches Mr P Weir (Seniors), Mr M Henderson (Medallion), and Mr R McCaughey (U13). Past pupils continue to contribute to the coaching of rugby at all levels in Friends’ School. Staff involved are IRFU Associate Referees or members of the Ulster Branch Referees Association and have undergone Child Protection Training.
Year 8 boys participate in rugby during games mornings (opting for rugby or hockey in November), extra-curricular practice and Saturday morning matches. U13, U14 and Medallion squads have a games afternoon as well as two after school practice while the Senior squad train on Monday and Thursday alongside Wednesday Games.
Senior Players have access to a state of the art fitness suite and outdoor conditioning equipment and are encouraged to follow a training programme best suited to their individual needs.
The 1st XV, 2nd XV and Medallion XV all enter the various Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ cup/ Shield competitions during the second term with the respective draws taking place in November.
Pupils continue to be involved in representative rugby and this season Year 14 pupil Curtis Dundas represented an Ireland U18s Seven’s side in winning the European U18’s Seven’s event. Year 13 pupil George Pringle represented Ulster Schools in the Interprovincial Series while Ben McCaughey, Bradley Mulholland and Ross Stewart have been involved with Ulster U17s.
Past pupil, British Lion and Ireland player Stephen Ferris maintains his links with school by attending different events and training session. Friends’ School annually have players in attendance at the various Ulster Regional Development Squads and hope to continue this trend for the years ahead. David McGuigan was awarded a place in the Ulster Rugby Academy and represented the Ulster Ravens and most recently has represented Ireland in the Sevens Squad.
Touring and rugby development play an integral part of Friends’ rugby at all levels and both junior and senior tours have in the past laid firm foundations for solid and successful seasons.
Rugby Report 2016-2017
The 1st XV was a strong blend of Year 13 and 14 players who combined extremely well to have one of the best seasons for some years. The season got off to a strong start with wins against Grosvenor, Larne and Cambridge House. Entering the School’s Cup at round two, Antrim Grammar were put to the sword by 57 points to 7 and in a hard fought round 3 replay at Coleraine the team would win by a narrow 9 points to 6. The round four draw couldn’t have been better and in an emotional game against Grosvenor Grammar School a fantastic spectacle of rugby was produced as the team won 30-0. After the quarter-final against BRA, the season would finish with a win over Sullivan Upper School. At the Ulster Schools Sevens the team would progress to the quarter finals and highlight of the season was winning the Gary Clarke Memorial Cup after winning against Portadown College.
Strong team performances throughout the year were backed up by Curtis Dundas representing Ireland and winning the European U18s sevens championship and George Pringle winning Ulster U18 Schools caps in the interprovincial series. Ross Stewart, Ben McCaughey and Bradley Mulholland have been involved in the Ulster Under 17 development squad throughout the season while the end of the season Adam Scholfield was rewarded for his endeavours by representing Ulster U19s against Japan U19s
The 2nd XV season began in promising fashion with wins against Royal School Dungannon and Cambridge House. Due to injuries and lack of squad numbers the team would spend the season developing for next year with an encouraging amount of Year 12 pupils. The cup campaign started well with a promising 19-7 win over Dalriada however drawing Campbell College in the next round would be a bridge too far. Despite being level on points at half-time the Belfast outfit would win the game comfortably.
The Medallion squad made history by reaching the final of the Medallion Shield at the Kingspan Stadium. Being seeded in round four only compounded our notion they were one of the best sides in Ulster and this was demonstrated as they had solid victories over BRA in round four, Methody in the quarter-final and a 39-10 win over Portadown College in the semi-final would set up an historic final against Royal School Armagh. On the day it was not to be but the memories of the final will live long not only with the players but everyone in Friends’ School. Who will ever forget the Guard of Honour as the team left for Ravenhill and the roar of the crowd as they ran onto the pitch. Mind you, Ross Shields lifting the Armagh player and carrying him down the pitch is one of my favourites.
The Under 14s continued to develop during the season and the committed players trained hard each week. Although their victories were few they have progressed well as players and in the final match of the season they managed to turn a Year 9 result of 40 points to a 31-22 margin instead.
The Under 13 Rugby squad played had a sound season with a committed 25 boys training every week. The squad gave their all in training and have improved their performance throughout the season with impressive wins over Belfast Inst Select side, Larne Grammar, Belfast High School and Ballyclare. With sustained hard work this team can continue to improve and overturn some of their narrow defeats next season.
The Year 8/ U12 year group fielded A and B teams throughout the year despite a small number of boys in the year group produced some fine results. Wins over Bangor Grammar, Down High School, Wellington College, Banbridge Academy, Larne Grammar Campbell and Inst B teams have set the team up with confidence they can take through to U13 level.
Rugby continues to improve and there is no doubt that this has been the best season in the history of Friends’ School. Everyone involved is enjoying the rugby, trips to Dublin and the overall camaraderie involved and we look forward to another season in September.
2017 - 2018 Fixtures may be viewed here