News Image

Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 Preview Saturday 11th January 2014

Thursday, 9 January 2014

There are seven Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 games scheduled to take place on Saturday 11th January.

Foyle and Londonderry College, coached by David Barnett and Ray Menown, will host Friends’ School, Lisburn, at Springtown, in a game where neither team will know a lot about the opposition. The two teams do not play each other in regular friendly fixtures but the Foyle College team, having home advantage, will see themselves as clear favourites to progress. They have the Danske Ulster Schools’ Cup experience of their inspirational captain, Patrick Leeson, to call upon. Patrick has scored a lot of tries for his team in the course of the past few seasons and will be hoping to get his name on the score board on Saturday.  Patrick gets great support from players such as Hayden Campbell, Jack McNeill, Steven Kennedy and Kevin Callaghan. In Alex McDonnell, the Foyle College team has one of the most prolific place kickers in the Province. The Friends’ School team will need to be disciplined in everything they do to deny Alex any opportunities for easy points.

The Friends’ School team has been going through a period of transition in the course of the season so far. They have found it difficult to grind out victories in games this season but will travel to Londonderry hopeful that a good performance in this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game can go a long way to rescuing their season. The Friends’ School captain, Jason Hassard, is fighting a fitness battle to make himself available for selection. The Friends’ School coaching staff, Stephen Robinson and Norman Gamble, will hope that the experience of forwards such as Caolin Harkin, Steven Kay and Peter Simpson can provide enough quality possession to enable talented backs such as Zach Finlay, Russell Dickson and Stevie Kane to ask questions of the Foyle and Londonderry College defence.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-30am.

Carrickfergus Grammar School will host a Portadown College team that has improved greatly since the Carrickfergus team defeated them heavily in a midweek fixture earlier in the season. On that occasion, the Carrickfergus GS captain, Joel Bell, played a leading role in the Carrickfergus GS win. The Carrickfergus GS coaches, Neal Kennedy, a former Portadown College pupil, and Stephen Martin, will be hoping to have their inspirational captain available for this game. It has been a difficult season for the young Carrickfergus GS team in terms of results. However, they have a number of experienced players available for the game who have played in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup last season. Christian Robinson is an International Athlete who brings pace and guile to his centre position. He has formed a good midfield partnership with Jake Porter, a recent addition to Carrickfergus Grammar School. Michael Black and Scott Henderson are two more players the Portadown defence will need to manage effectively. Only three of the Carrickfergus GS are due to leave at the end of the school year and this young team, with twins Reece and Kris Berry in the back row, will be hoping to repeat their earlier win against Portadown College to lay a marker down for the rest of the season.

The Portadown College team experienced an indifferent start to the season but has started to achieve some success, in terms of results, in recent games. This will have given the squad, coached by Andrew Symington, the confidence to go to Carrickfergus Grammar School and seek to reverse the earlier season set back against the same team. Niall Davidson, the Portadown College outhalf, is a talented player who, on his day, has the ability to find gaps in opposition defences. He is also a talented kicker, both out of hand and off the tee. The opposition must work hard to deny Niall any penalty kick opportunities. If the Portadown College pack, where team captain and No 8, Ryan Turner, plays a vital role, can acquire quality possession for their scrum-half, Michael Orr, to get his backline moving, then a shock result could be on the cards. Jack Orr, Michael’s brother, likes to attack at every opportunity. He could cause problems for the Carrickfergus GS defence by adopting good lines of support running for any breaks made by his outhalf. Jason Lau and Thomas Troughton form a hard working centre partnership which could cause problems as well.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00am.

Perhaps the “Match of the Day” will be the game to be played at the WK Armstrong pitch when the Royal School, Dungannon team plays host to their County Tyrone rivals from Omagh Academy. The two teams met earlier in the season with the RS Dungannon team winning by 20-0. An Ulster Schools’ Cup Saturday in Dungannon is a very special place to be. The RS Dungannon team will be aware of the tradition they are carrying and will rightly see themselves as favourites to progress in the competition. The have hit good form at the right time as recent results would suggest. Jack Milligan, a member of the victorious Ulster U19 Squad earlier in the season, is currently on top of his game. He is the leading RS Dungannon try scorer as well as being a prolific points scorer with his boot. As captain of his team, he will be well aware of the desire of his coaches, Gareth McClintock, Jonny Willis and Gareth Lucas, to win the game and progress in the tournament. The RS Dungannon team will stay true to their philosophy of attacking rugby and a defence that will make the opposition work hard for any points. Senior forwards such as Michael Jones and Matthew Calvert display a great work ethic in games while the front row of Jonny Black, Jamie McNeill and Jim Meng has put pressure on their opposite numbers all season. Thomas Downing, Josh McKee and David Cooper form a very effective break away trio that come to the fore at ruck time. The RS Dungannon back division has matured well with John Buckley, Stuart Moore and Scott McLean regularly assisting Jack Milligan with try scoring duties.

The Omagh Academy team has a number of talented personnel in the ranks and travelling to Dungannon will hold little fear for them. Over the years, Omagh Academy teams have made light of the non-favourites label and the current players have started to display really good form in the build up to this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign. A successful tour to Wales, pre-Christmas, has helped in this regard and the squad has come away with some positive results in recent games. Omagh Academy coach, Ross Hunter, has a full squad from which to select for this game for almost the first time this season. He will be able to call upon the services of the redoubtable Jackie Reid, his coaching assistant, for advice regarding the preparation of his squad to play a Schools’ Cup match at the Royal School, Dungannon! James Catterson, the Omagh Academy captain, is a key player for his team. He gets great support from players such as Lloyd Kane, Stuart Ballentine, Adam Stephenson, Adam Beattie, Scott Barr and Cameron Clements. These players have all been among the try scorers for the Omagh team throughout the season. Stuart Ballentine is also a very effective goal kicker. The RS Dungannon team will need to be wary of the threat all these players will bring to this cup tie.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00am.

Banbridge Academy will host Larne Grammar School in the first Round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup competition. The Banbridge Academy coaches, Brian Leslie and Roy Stevenson, will be hoping their squad will not be in a position to defend their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy victory, won last season, by the time the game against Larne GS has finished. The Banbridge team has played seventeen games in the course of the current season, winning seven, drawing won and losing nine. Their Trophy win from last season will give the current squad a degree of confidence as eleven of the team played in that final. However, they will be hoping to go into the Round 2 draw this season. Team captain, Rory Thompson, has scored a number of tries this season as have full back, Daniel McElderry, who is also an effective place kicker, and flanker, Jonny Campbell. Vice-Captain and No 8, Rory Carson, is joined by his brother, Ben in the team. There is a great sporting DNA in the Carson brothers whose father, Jimmy, a former pupil of the Academy, is a Donacloney cricket legend and a renowned rugby coach at Clounagh Junior High School.  Outside of Jonny Campbell and Rory Carson in the Banbridge Academy back row, is Ethan Harbinson, son of former Ulster star, Bill. If these players can put an effective game plan into place, they should get through against Larne Grammar School.

The Larne Grammar School team has found it difficult to get wins in the course of the current season. However, from their performance in their last outing, they will have taken a great of confidence having travelled to play Regent House and losing a high scoring game by just a few points. The Larne Grammar School coaches, Jonny Lowe, Peter Dundee and Barry Kirkpatrick, know they are working with a squad of players that deserve more than their current record would suggest. They have a number of key players in both their forwards and backs. Team captain, Marc McAllister and prop forward, James Bacon, are vital members of the Larne GS pack. They are joined by a very effective back row trio of Al Black, Conor Connolly and former Ulster U18’s player, Terry O’Donnell. These forwards will hope to provide quality possession for a talented, but youthful, back division to use effectively. Led by Calum McKay, the back division contains Ulster U17 RDS Squad member, Alistair Burke, a player who has made many line breaks throughout the season. Adam and Jack Ringland, nephews of former Ulster, Ireland and Lions winger, Trevor, bring a lot of pace, poise and power to the Larne Grammar School team. The outcome of the game could hinge on how much quality possession the Larne GS back division can get.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am.

Lurgan College will meet Antrim Grammar School for the third time this season, but this time in Round 1 of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. The Lurgan team won both games earlier in the season but had to work hard for both victories. Nevertheless, the Lurgan College team will see themselves as certain favourites to win this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup tie, having lost only twice this season. Lurgan College coaches, Geoff Caldwell and Neil Ross, will see team captain, Mark McIlwaine, as their key player. He has scored tries in almost every game he has played this season and is a very effective goal kicker. The Lurgan College pack, in which Harry Simpson, Cameron Lyness, Jack Harrison and Ryan Osbourne are key players, have supplied quality possession which the young backline has used effectively in the course of the season. James Patterson has stepped up from the Medallion team and has coped admirably with the demands of 1stxv rugby. He has had good support from Mark McIlwaine, Jordan McIlwaine and Drew Davis. Half of the Lurgan College squad are in their final year at school. They have developed a lot of Schools’ Cup experience but none beyond the first round. They will be hoping to change that on Saturday. One interested spectator on Saturday will be former Ulster, Ireland and Lions player, Ray Hunter, who will be in attendance to see how grandson, Jamie, performs in the centre for his Lurgan College team.

The Antrim Grammar School has recorded a number of fine victories in the course of the season. They have also lost narrowly in a few games they felt they should have won. Team coach, Michael Ferguson, assisted by Alistair Strange, will hope his players will take a confident approach to this game. They are a better team than results might suggest and had the Lurgan team well within range, until the last five minutes, when the teams met in Lurgan earlier in the season. On that day, team captain, Chris McColdrick, led by example and got great support from players such as Mark Strange, Christopher Donnelly, Matthew Mawhinney and Andrew White. Andrew is the top try scorer and top points scorer for the Antrim Grammar School team. The Lurgan College team should ensure they do not underestimate the potential ability of the players on the Antrim Grammar School team, the majority of whom have the experience of two Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaigns behind them.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am.

There will be an interesting game at the Circular Road venue in Newtownards when Regent House entertain Wellington College. The Regent House coach, Peter Lowry, is a former teacher in Wellington College while the Wellington College coach, Peter Chambers, is a former Ulster Schools’ Cup winner with Regent House! The Regent House team has struggled with consistency and loss of players to injury throughout the season. They had a recorded a narrow victory in their last outing and this should give them a degree of confidence as they prepare for their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 clash with Wellington College. Jonathan Harris, a member of the Ulster Schools’ U18’s squad, is a key member of the Regent House squad and his team mates will hope he can bring his representative experience to the fore in this game. Team captain, Matthew Johnston, plays a key role, not only as captain, but as a hard working No 8. The Regent House half backs, Peter Lyttle and Gavin Anderson, have been responsible for scoring most of the Regent House points this season. They will be hoping for more on Saturday.

Wellington College have had a good season thus far, winning a number of games while losing others in a very close manner. Team coach, Peter Chambers, will be hoping he can bring his experience of Schools’ Cup games at Regent House to bear with his young charges. He will be determined to have his team well prepared to travel to Newtownards and cause a major upset by winning. Sam Thompson, Jason Lyons, David Montgomery, Sam Bridge and Matthew Elliott are amongst the try scorers for the Wellington College team this season. Andy Hanna has been accurate with his kicking duties. These are players from Wellington College team whose threat the Regent House team will need to negate if there is not to be a shock result in this game.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am.

Grosvenor Grammar School will host Cambridge House, at the Cameronian Drive facilities, in a game in which the home team will see themselves as clear favourites to progress in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup competition. The Grosvenor team has played fifteen games this season, winning six, drawing one and losing eight. Team coaches, Kyle McCallan and Gary Hunter, will be hoping the Grosvenor GS team can pick up their seventh win of the season on Saturday. They are a team that can score tries from anywhere on the pitch. James Cartilage, a talented emerging young prop, has scored tries in a number of games this season, as has the experienced Sam Purdon in the Grosvenor GS back row. Sam will be playing in his third Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign, as will team mates Shane Johnston, another top try scorer, Neil Cushley and team captain, Jamie McMullan. Jamie forms a very positive centre partnership with Jonah McDowell, a talented place kicker. Mark Johnston has been involved with Ulster Age Grade RDS squads and he will hope to enhance his growing reputation with a positive performance on Saturday.

The Cambridge House team has not has its sorrows to seek in the course of the season so far. Team coach, Rab Gregg, has worked very hard with a limited number of players to maintain a Schools’ Cup presence in the school. They are building the game up in the lower school but it will be a year or two before this will be seen effectively at senior level. They have picked up a number of positive results in the course of the current season but it will be a big ask for Chris Da Mata and his team mates if they are to get beyond this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 game against Grosvenor Grammar School.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00am.

The draw for the 2nd Round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup will take place at on Saturday 11th January at Royal School, Dungannon after all results from the Round 1 games are known. The seven victorious Round 1 winning schools will be joined in the Round 2 draw by Bangor Grammar School, Belfast High School, Belfast Royal Academy, Coleraine Academical Institution, Dalriada, Down High School, Limavady Grammar School, Portora Royal School and Rainey Endowed School.

The seven losing Round 1 teams will enter the draw for the Quarter-Final games in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy competition and this draw will take place at the same time.