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Portora go out to top opposition

Andrew Crawford reacts after Methodist College cross the Portora tryline

Portora………………………………..5
Methodist College Belfast……..39

Portora’s campaign in this year’s Medallion competitions came to an end last Saturday when they lost to  powerful and well-drilled Methody outfit.

From the kick-off Portora recovered possession and retained it well through a number of phases. They then had to defend their own line for a period of sustained pressure, before breaking out and taking play to half-way.

A Methody up-and-under was fielded by Clyde, who made good ground. Then Balacoune entered the line and managed to break through into space behind the Methody backs.

A covering defender took him down but he had the presence of mind to pop the ball up to Humes, who put Ryan Ballantine into space, with a man to spare, and the captain ran in from the 22 for the best score of the day.
Unfortunately this perfect start was to be the last Portora score, though the first half continued to be very competitive, finishing 17-5 to the visitors.

Failing to score out-wide, as the Portora backs and back-row tackled and covered well, the Belfast team ground out their scores with drives close in that were difficult to withhold indefinitely.

The second half began as the first had ended, with Portora soaking up more Methody attacks. Time again they held out and Lewis Miller inspired his team and the home support when he floored the Methody centre that had finally managed to cross the line but then attempted to make his way beneath the posts.

He learned a harsh lesson as the ball was spilled and a certain score averted.
Despite these heroics in defence, Portora were unable to win and retain the possession needed to establish a foothold in the game.

Eventually the pressure told and Methody were able to extend their lead with a number of tries in the final quarter of the game.

There were occasional forays in attack, but these tended to be from deep. A good overlap was created when Keys looped Humes and Ballantine to make a break but it wasn’t sustained. Clyde broke up two attacks and nearly intercepted on both occasions. Balacoune always looked dangerous but had limited ball and opportunity to run.

After good games Egerton, Dane and Khew retired injured at different stages during the second half, to be replaced by Power, McQuaid and Jack Wilson respectively.

Andrew Crawford, playing a year up, was outstanding in defence at wing-forward. Humes and Palmer also deserve to be mentioned in this regard, though the whole team tackled well against the pace and power of successive attacks.

Clements had a couple of runs with ball in hand. McCabe bravely stayed on the field, despite a leg injury, as there was little cover for the hooking position and Sam Armstrong, as always, provided the hard-work that often goes unnoticed in the tight. James McCrae fielded kicks and tackled well on the wing.

The Portora boys can be very proud of their performances this season and their progress in the cup competitions.
Ultimately they were beaten by the predominant school in Ulster rugby, who will surely go on to win the tournament.
The odds were heavily stacked against them in terms of playing numbers, size and experience last Saturday, but they stuck to their task well, defended very bravely and scored the best and most expansive try of the game.

As individuals and as a team they have grown significantly over the course of the season. Experience playing  the likes of Ballymena and Methody in competition has been a very important step in their rugby development and has set a benchmark moving forward.

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