Academy’s Schools’ Cup reign is over

BALLYMENA Academy’s reign as Northern Bank Schools’ Cup champions is over.

John Andrews’ side bowed out of the competition at the first hurdle on Saturday when they were beaten 6-3 at Royal School Armagh.

Even allowing for the fact that Armagh were one of the eight seeded teams entering the competition at this stage, it was still a surprise defeat for the Academy, who featured nine of the squad which lifted the trophy at Ravenhill last St Patrick’s Day.

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In a very physical confrontation both teams were evenly matched with both defences cancelling out the opposition attacks.

Ballymena Academy took the lead midway through the first half when Caleb Morrison was successful with a penalty opportunity following an Armagh infringement at the breakdown.

Harry Boyd equalised for Armagh shortly afterwards when he converted a penalty opportunity of his own to take the half time score to 3-3.

The second half was another tense affair with both sets of forwards displaying great commitment at the set pieces and breakdown.

The Armagh pack had their second row pairing of Peter Johnston and Peter Hanna to thank for winning some crucial lineout ball while Sam McNabney, Timmy Patton and Peter Wallace got through a lot of hard work for Ballymena

The only score of the second half came from the trusty boot of Harry Boyd who converted a penalty kick to give Armagh a 6-3 lead which they maintained until the final whistle.

The Ballymena players were distraught at the final whistle as their grip on the famous trophy was over,

A trip to Ravenhill may still be on the cards this season but it will be the Subsidiary Shield, rather than the main event, which Ballymena will now have to set their sights on.