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Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Semi-Final Previews March 2014

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Semi-Finalists are known, the draws made and pitches found for the games which will take place on Tuesday 4th and Thursday 6th March.

Methodist College will meet Wallace High School in the first semi-final on Tuesday 4th March at the Queen’s University playing fields.

The Methodist College team came safely through a very tough encounter against Royal Belfast Academical Institution in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Quarter-Final game. The Methody team might see themselves as somewhat fortunate to have come through that encounter with a win but their experiences in that game will hold them in good stead as they look forward to yet another semi-final appearance. The success they have experienced in their current Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign has been built on the strength of their pack. Despite experiencing difficulties at scrum time against RBAI, the Methody pack is a formidable outfit. Michael Lagan captains the team from the loose head position. Michael leads from the front and can call upon the representative experience of fellow front row players, Steven Weir and Ross McAllister, if the going gets tough. He has players such as Alex Thompson, Conall Boomer and Saul Herdman behind him. All of these players are effective at line out time but it is their ability to gain ground from their well-organised driving maul that has caused problems for the opposition in recent Schools’ Cup games. The only try of the game in the course of the Quarter-Final game against RBAI came from a play following a Methody driven maul just before the interval. The Methodist College midfield of Josh Bingham, Connor McKee and Alistair McIvor is a very talented trio. When they get a supply of quality possession these players have the ability to use the ball well. The have created a lot of scoring opportunities in the course of the season, scored a lot of points and form a defensive trio that is hard to breach. Out wide, the Methody team has a number of players available that can prove elusive with the ball in hand and very steady in dealing with kicks. This Methodist College squad is determined they have the talent to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup for the third year in a row. Coaches, Nicky Wells and Stephen Lindsay, will ensure they will not underestimate a Wallace High School team they have beaten already this season. The scene is set for a potential classic Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Semi-Final.

The Wallace High School team can point to their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup winning credentials by saying they have been on the road for their two Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup games this season against Belfast High School and Campbell College. Despite having been behind in both games at the interval, the Wallace High School team displayed enough determination, skill and nous to go on and win.

Wallace High School Captain, Callum Irvine, has made a great recovery from injury. He has returned to galvanise his team and his presence has ensured his team mates are playing with a renewed confidence in their ability. Alongside Callum, Ben Pentland, Max Trouton and Josh Collingwood were Wallace High School players who impressed with their ball carrying abilities against both Belfast High School and Campbell College. They will need to impress once again against Methody. The Wallace High School backs love to get the ball in their hands. Their young halfbacks, Jonny Stewart and Ryan Moore, have been central to many of the Wallace successes this season. They display a maturity beyond their years and will make good use of any ball made available to them. Ryan is also a first class place kicker who will punish any Methodist College indiscretions. Outside these players, there is an abundance of attacking prowess in the Wallace backline. Andrew Cardosi, Ben Finlay and, in particular, Jack Stockdale, are players the Methodist College defence will need to monitor closely if there is not to be a surprise outcome to this game.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 2-30pm.

The second Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Semi-Final will see Sullivan Upper take on Coleraine Academical Institution at the Queen’s University playing fields on Thursday 6th March.

The Sullivan Upper team will play in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Semi-Final aware of the fact that no Sullivan Upper team has ever graced a Schools’ Cup Final. However, the great majority of the Sullivan Upper squad has experienced success in a final at Ravenhill when the Sullivan Upper Medallion team won the Danske Bank Medallion Shield in 2011. On that occasion, the team was captained by Ross Todd and, once again, Ross is the Sullivan Upper captain this season. Ross will not let his team underestimate the challenge provided by Coleraine Academical Institution, one of the few teams from Ulster to have beaten the Sullivan Upper team this season. However, he will let them know what it felt like to lift a trophy at Ravenhill and how much he would love to repeat the experience. Team coach, Willie Anderson, will have done his homework on the Coleraine AI team. He will know his pack will need to claim, at least parity, in the scrums. His Sullivan Upper team could be seen as not being one of the strongest scrummaging teams in the Province. Injuries have disrupted a potentially very strong scrum but one that came away from their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Quarter-Final encounter  with their heads held high. The Sullivan scrum will look to improve even more against the Coleraine AI set piece. The Sullivan lineout, with Josh Davidson reigning supreme, has been impressive throughout the season. More of the same will be required on Thursday! Ross Todd and Fergus Jemphrey are two outstanding backrow talents. Their role in the game, in particular at the breakdown, could be central to the eventual outcome of this game. If the Sullivan Upper pack can supply their backline with a possession of quality ball, it will be up to scrum half, Charlie McEwan, to ensure the ball is used wisely. Mark Adair will need to bring his representative experience to bear in terms of game management. He has exciting players outside him, players that love to get the ball into their hands. David McMaster is playing with renewed confidence since moving from full back to the centre where he forms a very effective partnership with Michael Cartmill. Jonny Betts and Zac Bertenshaw are wide players who love to get a chance to run with the ball. These players, who love to attack, are also very sound defensively and have yet to have had their line crossed in the course of their two Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup matches. They will want to maintain this in the course of their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Semi-Final game against Coleraine AI.

The Coleraine Academical Institution team will see themselves as favourites to win this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Semi-Final game against Sullivan Upper. They are one of the few teams to have inflicted defeat on the Sullivan Upper team this season. They firmly believe they could, and should, have won that particular encounter by more. The Coleraine AI team seems to have strength all over the pitch. Danny McAllister, Thomas Pethwick, Joel Stanbridge and Ollie McDowell are key members of the Coleraine AI pack, a pack that has caused problems for opposition teams throughout the season. Their set piece work is very effective, especially in the scrums. They say proudly that no opposition scrum has bettered them in any match this season. They have a very well-organised lineout which has allowed then to use effectively their driving maul tactic to good effect in the course of their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup run. The Coleraine AI backline has a number of very talented players available for selection. Like the Sullivan Upper team, their midfield trio of Callum Smith, Mark Gordon and team Captain, Conor Shiels, has been responsible for scoring a lot of tries and kicking a lot of conversions during the season. They are also a very effective defensive unit with Mark Gordon outstanding in this respect with his performance in the final quarter of their previous Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game against Ballyclare High School. The Coleraine AI team has played three Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup games this season. If they can bring the many positives taken from those games, and add to them, that should make this game a most intriguing encounter. Team coach, Richard Beggs, will be asking his team to emulate the success of the Coleraine AI heroes of ’92. Nothing would give Richard more pleasure than to see his young charges do so!

This game is scheduled to kick off at 2-30pm.