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Instonians U21s XV win Easter Monday Tournament

Instonians Rugby Easter Monday U21s Tournament 2022 - The Goldsborough Trophy

On Easter Monday 18 April 2022 8 teams participated in the annual Instonians U21 tournament at Shawsbridge. The tournament was started in 1980 by Instonians Golden Oldie Des O’Donnell as an U20 tournament (with fellow Golden Oldie Geoff Goldsborough providing a trophy the next year in 1981 with Malone RFC the 1st winners) but this year was adapted by excellent tournament organizer Gordon Keane (ably assisted by brother Ken ) to an U21 event in line with the Ulster Branch’s U21 Academy initiative.

There was a lovely symmetry to the Instonians squad this with Scott Hanley’s U21 Academy side featuring heavily (Scott’s dad Bob was another Golden Oldie) and Des’s grandson Rhys O’Donnell joining the coaching team to a squad enhanced by 13 exiles and a small number of RBAI school leavers. Club stalwart Stephen Lamb completed the coaching team.

The usual format of 2 groups of 4 with group winners playing runners up from the other group in the semi-finals was thrown into chaos on the Friday before the tournament when regular attendees Queens University Belfast said they could not get a team. Luckily Dublin side Suttonians came to the rescue by sending up their young U19 side.

The standard of rugby on display was very good and the format worked well with 12 minute halves and a quick turnaround at half time. Games were started on both pitches at the same time by a hooter and also finished the same way unless an injury caused one game to be halted. Instonians VP Owen Lambert expertly marshalled this all day while providing a wide range of music for all ages from the speakers on the balcony.

Group A

Most of the games were 1 score games in this very competitive group but Armagh narrowly managed to win through to top the group and Ballymena were very unlucky to finish bottom as losing all 3 matches by just 1 score.

That left Belfast Harlequins and Academy in a shootout for the runner up spot with a very competitive game ending up scoreless after a titanic struggle with both coaching teams and supporters heavily invested in the game.

Academy went through by virtue of a +1 try difference against which was just 1 try better than Belfast Harlequins. Two very good sides but one unfortunately had to lose out.

Group B

The young Suttonians side were 2 years younger than the opposition but put up a very brave effort and managed to win their final game against a more than useful Bangor side.

Instonians and Enniskillen were the 2 strongest sides in the group and when they met in the last match it was simply to determine who would win the group and who would be runners up.

The Instonians squad was a mixture of their fledging Academy side which reached the inaugural Academy Cup Final at Kingspan (beaten by a very strong and experienced Banbridge side) and many returning exiles home for Easter and a few school leavers from RBAI.

With both teams through the opportunity was taken to ensure all members of the squads got game time and Instonians won through narrowly 12-3 to win the group.

1st Semi-final

The 1st semi-final was a very close affair between Instonians and Academy. Academy were a very good competitive side and were fast out of the blocks to catch Instonians cold with a well deserved excellent team try which gave them a 7-0 lead which is always very useful in this shortened form of the game.

Instonians responded well and scored a crucial try just before half time. The discreet Klopp like fist pump from Coach Rhys O’Donnell in the coaches area served recognition of how important that try could be as despite missing the conversion Instonians were now only 2 points behind at half time with Academy leading 7-5.

In a very competitive 2nd half Instonians had the edge and got the next score to go 12-7 ahead. Academy showed great resilience to not concede any more points but could not find a way of creating the one chance they needed as time ran out. They can reflect though on an excellent tournament and gave Instonians a very tough semi-final.


2nd Semi-final

The 2nd semi-final gave us the first major upset of the day as an inspired performance from Enniskillen resulted in a well deserved 12-0 win over one of the tournament Favourites City of Armagh who were unbeaten up to this point.

The effort expended by Enniskillen took a lot out of them as they prepared to face the hosts Instonians who had beaten them 12-3 earlier in the day in the group stages.


By the time the final kicked off Instonians had got used to playing together and it showed in a simply superb exhibition of running rugby. They blew Enniskillen away with 3 first half scores. There was no let in the 2nd half either when the bench was emptied the momentum was maintained with a final score line a resounding 34-0 win.

Enniskillen should be proud however of reaching the final and inflicting the only defeat of the day to a very strong City of Armagh side.

Instonians President Robin McKelvey presented the Goldsborough trophy to his own club who had not won the trophy for 10 years, the last win back in 2012.

With tournament cancelled for the last 2 years due to Covid, it was wonderful to see it back and a great day’s rugby was produced by players from all 8 teams for the large crowd to enjoy in largely good weather.

A great day’s rugby for all concerned, now to do it all again next year!


Great photos & details on The Front Row Union website

Goldsborough Trophy: 2022 U21 Club Rugby Competition – The Front Row Union

Other Videos & Clips on the Instonians Facebook Page

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