Regent 8 Down High 19
Down High produced a convincing performance on Saturday in Newtownards to comfortably defeat Regent and secure a place in the Danske Bank Subsidiary Shield Final. The two sides had met twice already this season with Down High coming out on top on both occasions however the boys in green had been well warned about complacency and knew Regent would make the most of their home field advantage.
Down High started the game kicking off into the very strong breeze and in the opening minutes looked very capable of scoring an early try however a few instances of poor decision making in the wide channels meant that Regent were able to contain them. The early exchanges at set piece suggested Regent had the more dominant scrum however the Down line out was superior.
As the half developed Regent began to make smarter use of the wind and made territorial gains with the boot. Around 8 minutes Regent did opt to kick a penalty to the corner in attempt to catch and drive off the lineout but the visiting defence held firm. However shortly afterwards, around the 10 minute mark, a penalty was awarded to the home side when Down High were deemed to be offside at a ruck. The Regent kicker gauged the wind effectively and slotted the kick to give his side the opening score.
During the following 10 minute period Down High retained possession well and mounted several promising attacks but also defended with great resilience when Regent were in possession. It took until the 20 minute mark until Down High managed to record points when Rory Kerr showed excellent pace to expose a gap in the home defence and run in for the score on the back of some excellent phase play by Down High. Jo Bingham read the wind to perfection when he added the difficult conversion.
Before half time both sides had opportunities to extend their tally of scores. Regent had a penalty attempt drift wide and Down High showed some excellent open play decision making that allowed Luke Sandford to run in from his own half only for him to be called back because the referee deemed the final pass to be forward. Given the strong wind Down High were delighted to head into half time with the lead. Half time score 7-3.
In the second half Down High took 7 minutes to extend their lead. They clearly appreciated the assistance of the wind to get into Regent territory and their first score of the half came from Luke Sandford who ran a great line off a backline set piece move to touch down under the posts. Bingham added the extras.
Down High did suffer a set back 13 minutes into the half when Zac Ward was yellow carded for being offside at the ruck however the Down High defence held firm during this period and never really looked like their line was under threat. Not long after they were restored to the full compliment, off some open play, Ross Carlisle showed some great footwork to slip through the defence and cross the whitewash. Uncharacteristically, Bingham's conversion drifted wide.
With the result now looking fairly safe Down High made a number of changes to give some of their squad players more game experience. These replacements did extremely well and Down High continued to both attack and defend well. Despite this Regent did manage a consolatory unconverted try 1 minute from full time to leave the final score at 8-19 in favour of the lads in green.
The final whistle was greeted with elation from the Down High players and support as they now relish the opportunity to play at the Kingspan Stadium in the final of this historic competition. Down High last played in this final in 1982. This game will be played on Thursday 19th March. Details and updates will be available at www.downhighrugby.com and on twitter @downhighrugby