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Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Quarter-Final Previews Saturday 23rd February 2013

Friday, 22 February 2013

There are four Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup quarter final games, four Subsiduary Shield quarter final games and two Schools’ Bowl semi finals scheduled for Saturday 23rd February.

BANGOR GS v RS ARMAGH, 10.45am

The game involving Bangor Grammar School and Royal School Armagh at the Ballymacormack Road venue will see the return of one of Bangor Grammar School’s most famous Old Boys, Kenny Hooks, to the game.

Kenny, of course, is now Head Coach of the RS Armagh team and he will be aware of just how much the Bangor Grammar School team wants to win this game and take a place in the Semi-Final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup.

The Bangor coaching staff of Jason Morgan and David Graham will, no doubt, be reminding their charges of the halcyon days of the “Hooks era” and the place that the Grammar School held at the top table of Schools’ Rugby all those years ago. This squad of players feel they can take their place at that top table once again.

They have overcome safely the challenges provided by Portadown College and Belfast High School in their two previous rounds. The success of those games was built on the work rate, expertise and energy of their back row trio of Andrew Shaw, Matthew Stockton and Max Montgomery, all of whom were clever in their work at the breakdown, carried the ball effectively and created try scoring opportunities for their team.

They combined well with their half backs, Peter Eves and Matthew Hamilton, to keep the Bangor Grammar School team on the front foot. If the opposition was pressurised into giving penalties away anywhere within striking distance then Ross McCloskey and Cameron Strutt punished them accordingly with their well-honed kicking skills. James Leary and Michael Blair are two other Bangor forwards upon whom team captain, Phil Harper, can rely on when the going gets tough.

The going will get tough and, if this Bangor Grammar School team is to reach Ravenhill for the first time in many years, they will have to dig deep into their mental and physical reserves to achieve success.

Kenny Hooks, Dave Eakin and Gareth Beggs, the Royal School Armagh coaches, have guided their team to an early season narrow victory against Bangor GS, but they will realise that result counts for very little ahead of this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup quarter final encounter.

The RS Armagh team had quite a few players missing when that game was played.  Players such as Ali Wright, Connor Wright, Darryl Morton and team captain, Michael Hoey are available on Saturday and will be keen to ensure their team records another win against Bangor.

Armagh front row Darryl Morton, Michael Hoey and John Dunne has bedded in well and laid the foundation for their recent Schools’ Cup success against Coleraine AI. The Armagh back row trio of James Johnston, Jonny Morton and Michael Rolston will provide a stern test of the credentials of their Bangor Grammar School counterparts.

The experience of the RS Armagh half backs, the Wright twins, could be a decisive influence on the outcome of this game. Both are talented players and very capable footballers. They have created many try scoring opportunities for their team mates in the course of the season. Players such as John McDonagh, Toby McAlpine, Daniel Ewart and Matthew Hooks have benefited from their creativity throughout the season. They will hope to do so once again on Saturday.

BALLYCLARE HS v SULLIVAN UPPER, 11.00am

Ballyclare High School coach, Dan Soper, will be in a position to extend a warm welcome to the Sullivan Upper coach, Mike Rodgers, when their two teams meet in an intriguing Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Quarter-Final clash at the Rashee Road on Saturday 23rd February.

Dan worked with Mike for a number of years in Sullivan and, undoubtedly, got a good grounding in the special atmosphere and importance of the occasion the Schools’ Cup produces from Mike. Dan, along with his assistant coach, Gareth Shaw, took his charges to Down High School in the fourth round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup and came away with a resounding victory.

The inspiration for this victory came from the leadership of team captain, Jonny Darling. Not only did he provide great leadership during the match, he still found time to weigh in with a hat trick of tries before half time. Jonny got great support, in the course of the game, from his fellow forwards. In particular, Paddy Reid, David Allen, Jordan McKinstry and Michael Kirk stood out with their energy and industry.

Jack Irvine has displayed considerable ability with his trusty boot, both out of hand and off the ground, throughout the season. The Sullivan Upper team would be well-advised not to give away needless penalties. Andrew Eastop makes up the other half of an experienced half back partnership and Andrew and James will hope for a supply of quality possession in order to bring quality outside backs such as James and Eddie McKee and James Beattie into the game.

The Sullivan coaching team of Mike Rodgers, Adam Craig and Willie Anderson bring a great degree of youth and experience to their talented group of young players. Team Manager, Stephen Finlay is aware of the positive impact this set up had in their fourth round Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup encounter against a very gallant Belfast Royal Academy team.

Mike and Stephen had done their homework prior to that game and the information they had garnered proved to be useful in the build-up. The Sullivan Upper team came through that encounter successfully with team captain, Ross Todd, leading from the front. Ross got good support from Josh Davidson and Dave Cave, both of whom were try scorers, as well as the experienced Chris Griffiths and Scott Finlay in the Sullivan Upper pack.

The Sullivan half back combination of Charlie Burrows and Mark Adair have already attracted the interest of the Ulster Age–Grade Management teams and will hope to further that interest with their performances on Saturday. This game could be won and lost in the outside back divisions of the respective teams. The Sullivan back division feels that with players such as Zach Burtenshaw, Michael Cartmill, David McMaster and Adam McCartney to call upon, they, on their day, are a match for any team in the Province. They will hope to provide further evidence of that on Saturday.

RBAI v LIMAVADY GS, 11.15am

Royal Belfast Academical Institution did not get things their own way before emerging as winners of their fourth round Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game against Regent House. On that occasion it was only the second time this season the Belfast Inst team was at full strength such was the early season representative as well as injury list.

Team coaches, Richard Hedley and Gavin Monteith, will be hoping that they can be at full strength on Saturday when they entertain Limavady Grammar School but they do have a number of injury concerns. Captain, Josh Atkinson, will have expectations his team can make, at least, a semi final slot at Ravenhill.

He will need to have the experience of players such as Paddy Anderson and Andrew Magrath in the forwards to call upon. A fully fit Royal Belfast Academical Institution backline can include players such as Rory Bell and Rory Campbell, two exceptionally quick players. Nathan Brown has scored a lot of tries this season and has a good eye for a break. He is also a very accomplished place kicker. John McClure adds even more representative experience to the Belfast Inst backline and he will expect to play a very positive role in the course of this game.

The Limavady Grammar School team has already played two games away from home in the current Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign. For a team who had realistic early season expectations of at least a semi final place, following a fantastically successful tour to the Rainbow Nation, they have somewhat flattered to deceive in their previous games against Friends’ School and Dalriada School.

However, team coach, Stephen Barr, knows well there is no hiding place in this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup quarter final game. The Osbourne Park venue can be a daunting place to play at the best of times but particularly on a Schools’ Cup Saturday. The Limavady captain, Jamie Millar, played a leading role in the victory his team had against a very dogged Dalriada in the last round. Along with Michael Barr, he controlled the second half of the game with some astute kicking and decision making.

Rory Squires missed that game but should be available for Saturday. Sam Mackey will be delighted to have Rory Squires back alongside him in the Limavady Grammar School pack. Rory’s Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 experience could be vitally important to his team as they bid to take a place on the semi-final stage at Ravenhill. Jack McCool, Jamie W Millar and Tom McClelland all put in good shifts against Dalriada. They will all need to be at the top of their games, in both attack and defence, if they are to make it through to Ravenhill.

METHODY v WALLACE HS, 11.00am

Methodist College came away from Campbell College with a hard earned but well-deserved win following their fourth round Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game earlier this month. The Methody team controlled much of the territory and possession in the first half of that game and defended like demons for most of the second half. The honest endeavour of the Methody pack was there for all to see but they have the ability to move ball through their backs when they want to.

The Methody captain, Ross Kane realises how fortunate he is to have players such as Michael Lagan, James Gallagher, Mark Campbell, and a fit again Alex Thompson to call upon in his pack. They learnt a lot about themselves against Campbell College and this will, undoubtedly, hold them in good stead as they take on Wallace High School.

It is unlikely Rudi Benade will feature in this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup quarter final game due to injury. However, the Methodist College coaching team of Nick Wells and Stephen Lindsay will feel that when they can call upon the talent of players such as Josh Bingham, Connor McKee, Conor Kelly, Adam Liddell and Paddy Colhoun in their back line, there is no shortage of pace available. The Wallace High School team will recall how Paddy broke their hearts two seasons ago with a last second try and they will need to monitor his outstanding pace very closely.

The Wallace High School team has had an injury hit season and will still be without a number of key players for this game. Team coaches, Derek Suffern and Ian Latham, know their young players got a great boost of confidence when they travelled to, and defeated, Ballymena Academy in the fourth round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. They scored four tries on that occasion and converted all four.

They have experienced a win on the road and team captain, Cal McIlwaine, will be certain his team has no fears about travelling to the pristine Paddock Pitch at Pirrie Park. Zach McCall has made a great recovery from an early season injury and, along with Cal and Calum Irvine, forms a very hard-working and aggressive break away trio on the Wallace High School team. Chris Knowles, Aaron Gilkinson and Ben Pentland are an efficient front row unit that will have to work hard to gain parity with their Methody counterparts.

If they can, the Wallace High School half back partnership of Ryan Moore and Jordan Grattan, both of whom played exceptionally well against Ballymena Academy, will want to move the ball around. Conor Guiney, Max Trouton, Jacob Stockdale and Josh Collingwood have been regular try scorers this season. They would take great pleasure in scoring more on Saturday. Any Methodist College indiscretions, in their own half, will be punished severely by Ryan Moore whose hard work has seen him develop into one of the finest place kickers in Ulster Schools’ Rugby.

DANSKE BANK ULSTER SCHOOL’S SUBSIDUARY SHIELD QUARTER FINALS

Coleraine AI vs Regent House, 11.00am

Down HS vs Dalriada School, 11.00am

BRA vs Belfast HS, 10.30am

Ballymena Academy vs Campbell College, 11.00am

DANSKE BANK ULSTER SCHOOL’S BOWL SEMI FINALS

Omagh Academy vs Foyle College, 10.30am

Rainey Endowed vs Portadown College, 11.00am