The “Big 8” enter the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup on Saturday 11th February and the 4th Round draw has thrown up some intriguing encounters.
The potential tie of the round is the meeting involving Ballyclare High School and the Royal School, Armagh at the Rashee Road venue in Ballyclare.
Both teams have had an impressive season to date in terms of results and, on paper; both teams would appear to be fairly evenly matched. Both teams will have a number of representative players available for selection and this game should be an entertaining spectacle to watch. The Ballyclare High School team has a strong pack with a backline that is willing to move the ball at every opportunity. They have a team that feel they can go as far as the 2007, 2008 and 2010 squads, all of whom reached the semi-final stage of the Ulster Schools’ Cup. Indeed, there are many who feel this squad can emulate the heroes of 1973 and go on to win the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. Sixteen of the current squad were involved in reaching the semi-final of the Schools’ Cup last season so they bring a wealth of experience into the game against the RS Armagh team. Jonny Craig, Marc Logan and Paddy Reid provide a formidable front row platform with Jonny and Marc both gaining representative honours in September. Many feel that Paddy deserved to do so as well! The Ballyclare High School captain, Grant Bartley, has made a good recovery from a shoulder injury picked up while on Ulster duty but it may be too soon for him to be considered as a starter in this game. Jonny Darling and Jordan McKinstry are clever players at the breakdown and they will wish to secure a good supply of quality possession for their talented back division to use. Jonny Holmes, Jonny Douglas and Peter Ferguson all bring representative experience to the backline while players such as Jonny McKee, Eddie McKee and James Beattie have all caught the attention of the Talent Identification Department of Ulster Rugby. The Ballyclare High School coaches, Dan Soper and Gareth Shaw have worked hard with their squad to ensure they do themselves justice in their performance against the RS Armagh team. It will not be an easy task. The Royal School, Armagh team has been described in some quarters as the most talented team since the Royal School won the Ulster Schools’ Cup in 2004. They have pack that displays a tremendous work ethic with all players willing to go the extra inch or two for the benefit of the team. Michael Hoey and Thomas Johnston bring representative experience to the pack with Darren Morton and Mattie Clarke forming part of a very industrious back row. The Wright twins at half back played for the Ulster Schools’ team and now look better players for having had that experience. Stuart Hooks combines his role as Head Boy of the Royal School alongside that of being one of the leading try scorers on the team. He disappoints in neither! There is an abundance of pace on the RS Armagh team with Daniel Reaney and Daniel Ewart causing problems for most of the defences they have played against this season. Duncan Stead is a very gifted fullback who has the uncanny knack of making something out of very little on the rugby pitch. This game has all the hallmarks of being a classic Ulster Schools’ Cup encounter. It has been scheduled to kick off at 11-00am.
The Royal Belfast Academical Institution team has had a mixed season in terms of results. They have had many injuries to contend with along the way but feel they are capable of winning this home Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game against the Royal School, Dungannon team.
The Belfast Inst team has the psychological of an earlier season win against the Dungannon team and will hope to replicate some of the positive rugby they have played, at times, in the course of the season. A Pre-Christmas tour to participate in an U19 Tournament in Barcelona did a lot for team spirit as well as a lot for Schools’ Cup preparation. Playing five games in a short period of time and winning all five did a lot for fitness levels as well as exposing players on the fringes of the squad to the required standard. Players such as Ben Alexander, Paddy Anderson, John McClure, Nathan Browne and Matthew Keane bring representative experience to the team. Andy McGrath and Rory Bell, brother of last season’s captain, Paddy Bell, are seen as emerging talents. Josh Atkinson and James McGarrity bring strength and power to the team and all of these qualities will be required in the game against the RS Dungannon team. James Carruthers, the Belfast Inst hooker, will have his BBC newsreader father, Mark, on the touchline. There will be an added interest in the BBC headquarters at Ormeau Avenue when the result is phoned through after the game! Thirteen of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution squad were involved in the 2011 final. The Belfast Inst coaches, Gavin Monteith and Richard Hedley, as well as the players, would all love to go one step further in 2012! The Royal School, Dungannon team showed great determination, as well as commitment to the cause, when they snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat with the final play of their Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup 3rd Round game against Portadown College. The RS Dungannon team was 12-0 down after only ten minutes play in that game and the fact they came away with a win will stand them in good stead as they take on the Belfast Inst team. In their captain, Andrew Clingan, they have a player who commands the respect, not only of his own team, but of the opposition as well. Both Andrew and his fellow forward, Stephen Rodgers, played for the Ulster U19 team back in September. They are vital to the RS Dungannon game plan as are players such as Mark Wright and Willie Graham in the Dungannon pack. There is talent in the RS Dungannon back division with players such as Jack Milligan, David Davidson and Peter Cashel asking questions of opposition defences throughout the season. They will be keen to do so again on Saturday. The RS Dungannon coach, Keith Patton, stands as the doyen of Schools’ coaches throughout Ulster and much further afield. He will have his charges well prepared and ready for the game which is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am at the Osbourne Park venue.
The Dalriada School team has emerged as one of the surprise packages of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup competition this season.
Not many teams have travelled to Enniskillen to play Portora Royal School this season and come away with anything in terms of a result. That is exactly what the Ballymoney boys did in the 2nd Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup when they came away with a 10-10 draw. A two point win in the replay set up their 3rd Round victory against Regent House and now they await another of the Co Down’s finest when Bangor Grammar School arrive in town for the 4th Round Ulster Schools’ Cup game. The Dalriada team is a fair mixture of youth and experience with Mattie Glenn providing great leadership for his team. He is well supported by Rhys McAuley who gained representative experience when he played for the Ulster U19’s earlier in the season. While the Dalriada School team may not have done as well as they might have wished earlier in the season, coach, Benji Van Der Byl, has developed a team that are turning out to be renowned Ulster Schools’ Cup campaigners. Andrew Jinks and Chris Magee provide great support to Mattie Glenn in the Dalriada pack while Jonny Laughlin and Jack Magee have pace to burn in the Dalriada backs. Jonny Laughlin is a first class place kicker and the Bangor Grammar School team will be aware not to give away any penalty opportunities in their own half. The Bangor Grammar School team showed great character in overcoming a spirited Belfast High School team in the last round. The Co Down boys have experienced difficulties in getting wins on the road this season but will see the game against Dalriada as an opportunity to record one. The Bangor Grammar School coaches, Paul Hancock, David Kennedy and Jason Morgan, will be asking a player such as Max Montgomery to bring his representative experience the game. In their captain, Jonny Gordon, the Bangor Grammar School team has a player who sets high standards for himself and his team mates, on and off the pitch. He will want his team to play to the highest of standards on Saturday. There are great expectations of Bangor Grammar School players such Daniel Kennedy, Philip Harper and Ryan McCloskey. There will be no better time to display their talent than on Saturday. This game is scheduled to kick off at the St James’s Road venue at 11-00 am.
There is an element of a local derby in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup 4th Round game at the Castlerock Road venue in Coleraine when the Coleraine Academical Institution team hosts Ballymena Academy.
The Coleraine AI team came safely through the trickiest of encounters in the 3rd Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup when they travelled to and recorded a win against Down High School. There was little separating the two teams in that game and it all boiled down to the trusty boot of Mikey Poskitt. He used all his skill and experience to convert the one penalty opportunity that came his way in that game to ensure a narrow 3-0 victory for his Coleraine AI team. On that occasion experienced players such as Josh Murdock, Joe Livingstone and Mark Browne helped their younger colleagues such as Philip Linnegan, Jonny Crowe and Joel Stanbridge through a severe test of their Schools’ Cup credentials. The Coleraine AI team has had a mixed season in terms of results so far. The experience gained in the game against Down High School will give them a major boost when they line up against Ballymena Academy on Saturday. They have a youthful, but very talented, pairing in Conor Shields and Peter Kidd at halfback. The Coleraine AI coaching team of Richard Beggs, Stehen Ritchie and Mark Palmer will be expecting much of this combination if their Coleraine AI team is to spring yet another surprise in this Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game. The Ballymena Academy team has already defeated the Coleraine AI team twice this season. Despite the fact the Coleraine AI team was short a number of frontline players on both occasions, the Ballymena Academy team will see themselves as favourites to make it a hat trick. They have a number of players available for selection who were involved when the Ballymena team won the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup in 2010. Matthew Rea, Sam McNabney, Nicholas Sterling and George Hargy bring the experience gained in three Schools’ Cup campaigns, as well as representative experience, to the game against Coleraine AI. They will settle for nothing less than a place in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Quarter-Final draw. They can call upon their experienced players as well as the kicking skills of Darren Geddis who rarely misses when called upon. This game has all the elements of being a very hard fought encounter and is scheduled to kick off at 10-30 am.
The Banbridge Academy team was delighted on a number of fronts when the results of the draw for the 4th Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup came through.
First of all they were delighted to be in the draw and, secondly, delighted to be drawn at home. They Banbridge Academy team has travelled to play Omagh Academy in the 2nd Round and followed this up with a trip to Foyle and Londonderry College in the 3rd Round . This time they are at home at their Lurgan Road venue and take on the challenge provided by the Cambridge House team. Their early season form was less than impressive, recording only occasional wins in the first term. However, due to the success of their current Schools’ Cup campaign the team has grown in stature and confidence. They have a number of key players who are playing well but, importantly, they have a squad of players who work hard for each other and they see themselves in with a realistic chance of a place in the last eight. Alex Thompson is an emerging talent in the second row while Harry Russell brings experience of previous Schools’ Cup campaigns. They are well led by their captain, Colin McGregor who gets good support from fellow forwards, Mark Best and David McKeown. The Banbridge Academy half backs, Aaron Kennedy and Mark Stevenson are talented players and Rory Thompson likes nothing more than to get the ball in his hands in space. The Cambridge House team has had to work hard against both Lurgan College and Wellington College to earn the right to be in the 4th Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. They have a mixture of both youth and experience in the squad with players such as Timmy Small and Andrew Cundell gaining invaluable representative experience with the Ulster U19’s earlier in the season. They played against Lurgan College minus a number of front line players but will hope to have all squad members available for Saturday. Ryan Uprichard and Chris Da Mata played leading roles in the victory against Wellington College. The Cambridge House coaches, Rab Gregg and John Nicholl, will be hoping for more of the same when they take on the Banbridge Academy team on Saturday. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am.
Wallace High School host one of the surprise packages of Ulster Schools’ rugby this season when they play Limavady Grammar School in the 4th Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup on Saturday.
The Wallace High School team lost to the Limavady Grammar School team earlier in the season and will be hoping there will be no repeat of that result on Saturday. The Wallace High School team has endured more than their fair share of injuries during the season but hope to have a full squad from which to select on Saturday. They have a number of talented representative players in the squad such as Mark Gilkinson, Cal McIlwaine, Matthew Ballantyne, Peter Weir, James McCallan, David Scott, Jordan Heatley and Nathan McClatchey. The Wallace High School coaches, Neil Hinds and Derek Suffern, will hope their team can obtain sufficient quality possession to enable their talented back line to attack with the ball in hand at every opportunity. The Limavady Grammar School team has made a number of teams sit up and take notice this season. They were undefeated in the course of the first term and have lost only to RS Armagh and Ballyclare High School in recent games. They could see themselves as favourites to beat the Wallace High School team having done so already this season. They have quite a few players who featured in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Medallion Bowl Final two seasons ago as well as a number of younger players who featured in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Medallion Shield Final last season. These successes have given the Limavady Grammar School team an appetite for more! If players such as Rory Squires, an impressive prop, Daniel Irvine, Richard Boyd and Sam Leckey can gain parity in the forward exchanges, the Limavady Grammar School team has a number of key backs who can cause problems for opposition defences. Limavady Grammar School captain, Stuart Hull, is an experienced centre and his defensive partnership with Michael Barr could be crucial to the outcome of the game. John Fallows, Robert Lamberton and Aaron Rainey are exciting runners when in possession of the ball and in Aaron Rainey, the Limavady team has an expert finisher. Stephen Barr, the Limavady Grammar School coach, will hope his charges are not fazed by the experience of playing in front of a vociferous capacity crowd at the Magheralave Road venue. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-15 am.
Campbell College, the current holders of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup will be determined to hold on to the prestigious Trophy for as long as they can.
They entertain the Grosvenor Grammar School team in their 4th Round game on Saturday and have the advantage of having seen their opponents when the Grosvenor Grammar School team overcame the challenge provided by the Sullivan Upper team in the previous round. The Campbell College team have gone quietly about their business in the weeks leading up to this intriguing Schools’ Cup clash. As ever, there are a number of talented players within the Campbell College ranks. Josh Fullerton and Rob Haldane are exciting backs and there is the real prospect that Irish Schools’ FIRA Tournament winner, Mark Best, may be available for selection in this game. Jack Owens, Ben Sloane and Harry Howard have been among the Campbell College scorers this season. The Campbell College coaches, Brian Robinson, Gareth Fry and John McKinney, will be hoping for more of the same from these players when their team faces the Grosvenor Grammar School team on Saturday. The Grosvenor Grammar School victory against Sullivan Upper in the 3rd Round of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup was built on commitment, passion, determination and no little skill. These virtues have been built into the psyche of the squad by the Grosvenor Grammar School coaches, Kyle McCallan and Gary Hunter. They will hope for more of the same when their team takes on Campbell College at one of the most difficult venues in the Province ie Fox’s Field. However, this Grosvenor Grammar School team will not need any encouragement when they enter that arena on Saturday. They have a hard working front row that boasts two Ulster U19 players in skipper, Stuart Smyth and Nick Jones. They have the impressive backrow trio of Sam Purdon, Ivan Davidson and Matthew Cahoon to call upon, a trio that dealt most effectively with anything that the Sullivan Upper team threw at them in their 3rd Round encounter. The Grosvenor back division boasts the talents of Peter Davison at outhalf. Peter is supported ably by his centre pairing of Ben Coard and Paul Kennedy, players who should not be underestimated. The Campbell College team will see themselves as favourites but they should not make the mistake of taking things for granted. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am.
It has been stated regularly that one of the most difficult places to visit on a Schools’ Cup Saturday is the Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt.
Carrickfergus Grammar School and Belfast Royal Academy will testify to that having lost there in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup this season. The Rainey Endowed School coaches, Chris Campbell and Charlie Simpson, have put together a very workmanlike squad and a squad that will be determined to add the name of Methodist College to the list of teams they have beaten in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup this season. The Rainey Endowed School team is captained by Thomas Booth, a player who leads by example throughout the game. He gets great support from Michael Dawson and Jonathan Lees, his back row colleagues in the Rainey Endowed pack. Oisin Quinn and Martin Connolly form a vital half back combination for the Rainey team while Chris Moffett and Jamie Noble like to take advantage of any openings created for them. The Methodist College team has played well against schools from the Province but has lost a number of games to schools from outside the Province in the course of the current season. They bring a great deal of experience into this game and any pack with players such as James Harrison, Mark Logan, Mark Campbell, Chris Gracey and Rory Winters available for selection would expect to gain the upper hand against most school teams. Mark Gribben, Connor McKee and Rudolph Benade bring power and pace to the Methody back division and, if Peter Colhoun is playing, the Rainey team will have to monitor him closely for the entire game. The Methody coaches, Nicky Wells and Stephen Lindsay, will have their team well prepared for this game. They will be aware of the challenges provided by any Rainey Endowed School team but especially one playing at home in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am.
The draw for the Quarter-Finals of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Subsidiary Shield, the Semi-Finals of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Bowl and the Quarter-Finals of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup will take place at Ballyclare High School on Saturday 11th February.
In the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Bowl Quarter-Finals there are four games scheduled for Saturday 11th February.
Portadown College will host Down High School with a 10-45 am kick off at Chamber’s Park.
Foyle and Londonderry College will host Sullivan Upper with an 11-30- am kick off.
Regent House will host Belfast High School with a 10-30 am kick off.
Wellington College will host Belfast Royal Academy with a 10-30 am kick off.
It is Semi-Finals Day in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy on Saturday 11th February.
Omagh Academy will host Portora Royal School with a 10-30 am kick off.
Larne Grammar School will host Friends’ School with a 10-15 am kick off.