New England makes it four in a row

NEW England Lions made it four Opens championships in a row at the NSW Country Schools championships at The Armidale School on the weekend, defeating Far North Coast 10-5.

New England centre Ben Caskey dives over for a five-pointer against Far North Coast.

New England centre Ben Caskey dives over for a five-pointer against Far North Coast.

However, the 16s division result was reversed, with FNC defeating the Highlanders 28-10.

More than 250 young rugby players from country zones across the state took part in the 37th championships, which are selection trials for NSW Country Schoolboys sides, as well as a development squad to tour Singapore and Hong Kong next year.

In the Opens, New England Schools, Far North Coast Schools, Mid North Coast Schools and Central Schools vied for the Bernie McGrane Shield, while the above were joined by Central West

Schools in the 16s, for the Don Wiburd Trophy.

Carnival convenor Jim Pennington said it was “magnificent” championships, though tinged with some sadness as it was the last one, a decision taken as the result of the changing landscape of schoolboy rugby.

“There was some quality rugby over the two days and all teams put in a mighty effort,” Pennington said.

Among those who made selection in the opens was Central North’s Angus McTavish, who was named player of the tournament. Championships host The Armidale School was well represented in the representative teams selected, with four boys in the Opens and five in the 16s.

On Saturday night, players watched the Wallabies v France test on big screens in the TAS boarding houses, which proved a hit.

“The boys were inspired by the efforts of the Wallabies particularly debutante Sam Carter who was named player of the test – especially as a year ago to the day, Sam was here at the championships providing the boys with some leadership and advice.”

The opens team will play Combined High Schools in Sydney later this month.