Rugby coach focused on lifting trophy

Portora coach Adrian Walker will hope to exact revenge on an early season defeat to final opponents Banbridge Academy

AHEAD of their Ulster Schools Trophy Final next week, Portora 1st XV rugby coach Adrian Walker believes his side have what it takes to lift the trophy for the second time in three seasons.

Next Wednesday February 27 Portora will play Banbridge Academy and Adrian will be looking to exact revenge for the earlier defeat.

“We played them around Halloween and we lost , but we had a depleted side, we didn’t have a huge amount of reserve players available and we lost by about 20 points.”

Since that early season defeat Portora have moved on and now stand on the brink of silverware.
A 14-12 defeat of Lurgan College in the semi final showed all the battling qualities of the Portora side and coach Adrian dismissed any notion it was a ‘lucky’ victory.

“It was unfortunate the pitch conditions and weather didn’t suit our style, but then it just came down to which team adapted better,” he said.

“We had a slow start, but I wouldn’t say we were lucky to win. The match is 70 minutes and we used our replacements well and had a stronger resilience, which showed coming back from 12 nil down.”

In the Lurgan match a disallowed try early on  may have also contributed to the nervewracking finish.
“The ref had awarded the try, but after the Lurgan coach consulted the referee it was decided that he had went past the deadball . Technically the referee can’t go back on his decision, but he did.

“That had a lot to do with the first half I think.
“The boys celebrated the try and we were preparing for the conversion and it took us about five or 10 minutes to get back into the game. It may have accounted for missed tackles which led to their tries.”

Adrian knows that against Banbridge they cannot afford to give away such a lead.
“They have a big capable, physical pack and we have to be strong up front to keep them at bay. They have a couple of key players in the backline that we will have suffocate of ball.

“We’re capable of doing it and at this stage of the season it is more cerebral than physical.”
Adrian believes Banbridge are beatable and will look to the key forwards Marcus Crawford and Oliver Gamble, as well as captain and fly-half James Stevenson to drive the team forward.

Adrian is keeping the players sharp and training to a minimum in preparation and hopes the boys, roared on by a 200 strong rugby fraternity come out on the right side of the result.

“A lot of it comes down to decision making on the day, doing the right things at the right time. It will inevitably come down to the right decisions in the backline.

“We just have to make sure we finish stronger. I wouldn’t pick a scoreline, but we have enough confidence, we’re focused enough, committed enough and I would back them all the way, they deserve it.”

Portora play Banbridge Academy at Dungannon Rugby Club on Wednesday February 27, kick off 2.30pm.

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