Bar the temperature you could be forgiven for thinking you’d pitched up at the Sydney Mardi Gras as thumping beats, coloured smoke stacks, sparkling sunshine and a exuberant crowd welcomed the teams onto the pristine surface at Osborne Park.
Report, images and interview by Richard Owens.
BRA have got to the semi final having squeezed past Wallace 5-3 after a replay and their opposition Campbell College come here undefeated all season. Form would suggest a Campbell win but I’m told this BRA team has talent.
BRA win the toss and elect to play into the sun. CCB kick off and after a few opening jabs Campbell are the first to land a punch after some forceful running through their centre sets up an excellent attacking position with flanker Cameroon Faith finally touching down beside the post after patient build up. The replacement kicker makes it 7-0 after 6 minutes.
BRA attempt to get into the match from the restart and have good field position but a misfiring line out sees CCB steal ball and spread it quickly. Now in the BRA 22 the retreating team concede a penalty and Campbell’s out half sends the ball into touch on the 5m line. From the line out a maul is set and captain Flynn Longstaff peels off the back to smash his way over the try line. Conversion missed but Campbell are 12-0 ahead after 14 minutes.
Again from the restart BRA threaten and force a penalty which gives BRA a chance to get on the scoreboard through a shot at the posts which falls short. The ball is belted downfield and the covering defence knocks on as they try to field the towering kick. From this scrum we see the first of several sensational backs moves culminating in top class finishing.
Longstaff picks up and draws the defence but the ball is spirited to the right wing through some precise handling before he evades three tacklers, losing his shirt in the process, before sitting down in the corner. The extras are not added from the difficult conversion attempt. What a start from the East Belfast squad, 17-0 after 19 minutes.
It’s only minutes later before we see the second piece of dazzling skill from the Campbell backs as the ball is shipped from a line out to the outside centre who has cut back and burst through the BRA line before rounding and weaving past the final defenders to score under the posts. A classy piece of skill. This time the two additional points are added and the score line advances to 24-0.
We have a final fifth try of the half again from set up from solid forward play and quick ball out to the left wing who almost reached the line before being tumbled. A series of pick and drives from the forwards before a snap pass to the inside centre see him over the line near the posts so the conversion is straight forward. 31-0 and the ref blows for half time.
Campbell are scoring at almost a point a minute and that whistle can’t have come soon enough for BRA. Remembering Eddie Jones’ press conference last week you certainly feel Campbell could also declare if this was a cricket match, they have been so dominant.
The photographers lot is to pick a spot where the light is best and hope the action will be close. Sadly for this snapper all the tries were at the far end in the first half but now having Campbell playing towards me I was hopeful.
What do coaches say at half time? Admiration goes to the BRA coach who must have injected some stirring words into his as BRA start the second half with real enthusiasm and effort.
They appear a different team scraping for every ball and taking the fight to Campbell. They deservedly get a try after forcing Campbell back into their own 22 and stretching their defence to see their left wing get over in the corner. A superb effort at the conversion sees the kick rebound off the crossbar but at last BRA are off the mark, 31-5.
The rest of the second half is a much better contest and with each side pressing for further points and BRA now showing us what a good side they are, refusing to buckle under the relentless pressure from the big Campbell pack. Even though they can’t win this game they continue to scrap for everything denying Campbell any further points.
It remains to be seen if this Campbell side can get over the last hurdle and go the whole season unbeaten to lift the Medallion shield in their last game. RBAI awaits.
Final score 31-5 to Campbell. Looking at the CCB team for mom I could have easily picked three or four players for the award but for his work rate and number of turnovers, mom goes to Cameroon Faith.
Interview with him and coach Gareth Fry below. (Bit windy but worth the listen)