Ulster A: Who Did What in the Celtic Cup?

Published Categorised as 2019-20, Celtic Cup, Editorial, Provincial Rugby Academy, Ulster Academy Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Ulster A completed their Celtic Cup campaign on Sunday afternoon with a 31 – 10 loss to the “Invincible” Leinster A side at Energia Park, Donnybrook in the Celtic Cup Final.

It was some campaign from the Leinster side, who recorded a bonus point win in every match, and their complete dominance of this tournament points towards continuing success for the D4 outfit for years to come.

Ulster A were the next best side with five wins from seven in the round robin league and five from 8 overall, including their final defeat against Leinster.

The overall stats for the top two sides are worth comparison, almost half of Ulster’s tries against conceded against Leinster who put 13 past Ulster in their two meetings.

Leinster A88382150582380
Ulster A85208201292750

That first meeting against Leinster, four matches in, saw Ulster conceded nine tries and score four. The defeat seemed to knock Ulster off their stride and in the subsequent matches we covered they never really found the free flowing rugby that featured in their first three games.

In fairness they did outscore Dragons six tries to four in their next match but they struggled to put Ospreys away at Gibson Park before being outplayed at Shawsbridge by Munster in a disappointing performance. By that stage their appearance in the final was already guaranteed so maybe their minds were elsewhere.

Conor Rankin scored a memorable try against Cardiff

Overall, I found it a very enjoyable tournament from an Ulster perspective, when they clicked they were very good indeed and they largely tried to play an exciting brand of rugby. Given the average age and experience,  you could easily forgive a few mistakes if Leinster hadn’t set the bar so high.

There were plenty of positives and that gap is certainly not as wide as the stats above would indicate.

Player Stats

Coaches Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson named 37 players throughout the tournament. The bulk of the players, 28, came from the Academy and the club game with nine senior team players parachuted in for game time occasionally.

As the season got underway it was a balancing act between keeping the squad together, giving senior players much needed game time and club requirements but they largely got this difficult balancing act right with Academy and club players dominating, senior players accounting for less than 10% of the starts.

Ross Adair battles for a score against Connacht

You can view all the players used in the drop-down below but we’ll give a shout out here to Bruce Houston, David McCann, Hayden Hyde and Jack Regan who started every game. Also of note is schoolboy Nathan Doak who was in all eight squads starting in seven and coming on as a replacement in the other.

Bruce Houston88
David McCann88
Hayden Hyde88
Jack Regan88
Nathan Doak718
Ethan McIlroy77
Graham Curtis77
Callum Reid617
Joe Dunleavey617
Peter Cooper527
Conor Rankin437
Ross Adair66
Azur Allison516
Zack McCall*426
Luke Pollock246
Matthew Dalton246
Matthew Agnew156
Paul Mullen66
Ben Power325
Tom Stewart235
Aaron Hall145
Tommy O’Hagan*145
Lewis Finlay55
Andrew Warwick*44
David O’Connor*44
Marcus Rea*314
JJ McKee224
Jonny Stewart*123
Claytan Milligan33
Jonny Blair33
Adam McBurney*22
Angus Kernohan*22
Michael Stronge22
Angus Curtis*11
Conor McMenamin11
Greg Hutley11
Sean Kearns11
TOTAL (37 PLAYERS)12064184
*Senior Squad Member


Ulster A scored 208 points, with an average of 26 per match. The points came from 29 tries, 21 conversions ( 72.4% conversion rate) and 7 penalties.

Bruce Houston was the leading scorer with 63 points, the ever present out half doing a good job with the kicking duties.

Bruce Houston sends another conversion between the posts.

There were three players tied on 5 tries each with David McCann, Peter Cooper and Ross Adair accounting for just over half of Ulster’s try total.

Peter Cooper picked up a brace against Ospreys

All Ulster’s scorers are shown below.

Bruce Huston0217063
David McCann500025
Peter Cooper500025
Ross Adair500025
Graham Curtis300015
Azur Allison200010
Conor Rankin200010
Hayden Hyde200010
Aaron Hall10005
Callum Reid10005
Luke Pollock10005
Marcus Rea10005
Tommy O’Hagan10005
Ulster A scorers in the 2019 Celtic Cup

The Front Row Union Ulster Player of the Tournament. 

I particularly enjoyed the performances from Cooper and Adair throughout the competition along with Rankin’s early run outs.

Doak looked as though he was born to it, which I suppose he was, but it was still a wonderfully composed series from the schoolboy.

Nathan Doak was composed throughout.

Hyde impressed throughout and, overall, the bulk of the players gave me something to smile about as I sat down to edit the match photos throughout the tournament.

Hayden Hyde slides in against Ospreys

However, one player appeared in the background of more pictures than the rest, constantly on hand to provide support or lead the way, and that was “Captain Fantastic” David McCann who gets our nomination for the Ulster Player of the Tournament.

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