Rugby Heritage Cup: Ballyclare pupils finish fourth in France
and live on Freeview channel 276
The seven-a-side tournament marked the 200th anniversary of the invention of the game of rugby at the English school of the same name, and came in the week leading up to the Rugby World Cup 2023, also being held in France.
It was hosted at the 1,000 year-old Pontlevoy Abbey in Centre-Val-de-Loire.
The seven-day event saw 500 young male and female players compete in school teams representing no fewer than 20 countries.
A team of students from Ballyclare High School represented the Irish Rugby Football Union alongside pupils from St Michael's College in Dublin, with the sides meeting in the third-place play-off match- St Michael’s triumphing 8-3.
Ballyclare got their campaign off to a good start with a 3-1 win over Junior Brescia from Italy.
Their second match saw them defeat Tonga college 6-5.
Don Brosco Asalayam India provided the opposition for Ballyclare’s third game, the Rashee Road pupils winning 11-1.
Through to the quarter-finals of the cup competition, Ballyclare progressed to the last-four thanks to a 4-3 win over Clifton College.
Ballyclare tasted defeat at the semi-final stage, losing 4-1 to Iona College.
This set up the third-place showdown with St Michael’s.
Coach Mike Orchin-McKeever explained: "After rotating to manage players, the first half was very close, finishing 4-2. Again, the 35-degree heat and the games prior played their part on Ballyclare as we sank to an 8-3 defeat as we were out on our feet.
"A good game against a a top, if not the top rugby school in Ireland. Finishing fourth in this competition has meant so much to our boys and they should be
"The expectations consistently were met and exceeded in regard to rugby, our cheffing and video editing throughout the whole event. The boys are a credit to the school and their families and should come home better people with the learnings and cultural experiences which they have had whilst living and breathing rugby with multiple nations around the globe.”
Commenting on the event overall, he said: "I am delighted to have been able to offer a group of young men from Ballyclare the opportunity to experience this and it encourages and excites us to explore more opportunities for larger groups moving forward.
"A big thank you to our sponsors for asssiting; We Are Martin, Ballyvesey Holdings, Dennison Commericals and Dennison JCB.”
Mr McIlwaine added: “Getting to stop off at local eateries, a patisserie and Boulangerie on their travels, they got a real taste for French life.
"Away from the pitch the players took part in challenges such as a cooking challenge for a group. This was to be a meal from your country provided to another country, which got reciprocated to us.
"The wheelchair rugby competition was fun and they got to experience a French day of events and local tours to villages. The experience was life changing.
"Playing against different countries is exciting, but getting to see the boys share stories between matches and in the evenings, joining together at meal times and getting some recreational activities too was brilliant.”