Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Preview Saturday 19th February 2011

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Despite the fact that most schools are finishing off the spring half term holiday there are four Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup quarter-final games, four Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Shield quarter-final games and one Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Bowl semi-final game scheduled to take place on Saturday 19th February 2011.
Sullivan Upper will welcome back one Dan Soper, of their former rugby coaches, when they host his Ballyclare High School team on Saturday in the Schools’ Cup quarter-final clash. The Sullivan Upper team had a reasonably comfortable win against Belfast High School in their 4th Round encounter and the Holywood team, with home advantage for the first time in the competition this season, will see themselves as favourites to overcome the Ballyclare High challenge. Oliver Loughead, Ryan Loughead, Michael Scott, Ross Adair and Harry Eves all played leading roles for the Sullivan team in their 4th Round encounter. However, it was the two try hero, Oliver Matthews, who stole the show with his performance in that game and he will be keen to repeat the same feat against a Ballyclare High School team that stuttered to a last minute win against Down High School in their 4th Round game. The Ballyclare team was guilty of producing an error riddled performance in Downpatrick. Players such as Jonny Holmes, Jonny Darling, Peter Kennedy, Grant Barkley and Marc Logan will hope they can produce a much more consistent performance against Sullivan on Saturday. If they do not, they will be out of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup! This game is due to kick off at 11-00 am.
Coleraine AI was another team that came through their 4th Round encounter against Grosvenor Grammar School with a last second win. The Coleraine AI had Paddy Farrell to thank for his “man of the match” performance against Grosvenor Grammar and guiding his team into the quarter-final. The entire Coleraine AI team will need to be at their best if they are to see off the challenge of Belfast Royal Academy. The Coleraine AI team had, up until Schools’ Cup time, a difficult season in terms of results. They won their 3rd Round encounter away to RS Dungannon and their 4th Round encounter at home against Grosvenor Grammar School. These results will have given a great psychological boost to players such as Michael Poskitt, Adam Dysart, Alan Clarke and Stuart Caffrey. Will it be enough to see off a talented Belfast Royal Academy team? With home advantage, there will be many in Coleraine who think it can! The Belfast Royal Academy blew aside the challenge of the Bangor Grammar School team in Round 4. Despite Stuart Olding not being fully fit and unable to kick, Jake Kane came through strongly by taking on the kicking duties. Ryan Clarke, Eoin Devlin, Daniel Dass and Matthew Robinson played well in that game. David Campbell has impressed with his all action style in the course of recent games for the Belfast Royal Academy team. They had a taste of playing at Ravenhill last season in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final. The entire BRA squad will be doing their utmost to replicate that success this season. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am.
The RS Armagh coach, Kenny Hooks, has now found himself back on speaking terms with his daughter-in-law, Hannah, an ex-pupil of, but still avid Ballymena Academy fan. Hannah was so annoyed that the RS Armagh team defeated the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup holders in the last round, that it was a case of “all vision and no sound” when she met her father-in-law after the game. However, things have improved and Hannah will now be willing the RS Armagh team to victory on Saturday when they come up against the Royal Belfast Academical team at the College Hill venue on Saturday. Harry Boyd was the RS Armagh hero in that game and he was well supported by Timmy McNeice, Stuart Hooks, Robbie Magowan, Daniel Reaney and the emerging talents of James Hanna. The RS Armagh team had to dig deep, at times, to defend in the course of that game but defend they did and they came out with the result. The Belfast Inst team would do well not to underestimate the RS Armagh team. The experience of players such as Zach Welshman, Michael Kilpatrick, Kevin McLean, Paddy Bell and Michael Mairs will be needed and indeed, crucial, if they are to come away from the Cathedral City with a much coveted Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ semi-final spot. Kick off time for this game is 11-00 am.
For many people the “match of the day” will be the encounter at the famous Fox’s Field when Campbell College take on Methodist College, a clash that would potentially grace any final. The Campbell College team came through their 4th Round encounter against Regent House with a comfortable win. The performance of their pack, with James Cooke, Mark Best, Kyle Adams and Charles Gallagher to the fore laid the foundations for the Campbell College victory. John Creighton, Rory Scholes, Chris Farrell, Chris Best and the Campbell College backline made the most of the possession gained from the pack to ensure they had try scoring opportunities. By contrast, the Methodist College team was within seconds of going out of the competition in their 4th Round encounter at Wallace High School. They had opened up a 10-0 lead only to go 19-10 behind. Self-belief and a never say die attitude saw the Methody team through by 20-19 and a place in the quarter-final! They will not want to leave it so late again. The Methody team has a very hard working front row unit with James Harrison, Dan Kerr and Oliver McCollum causing problems for most teams in the set piece this season. James Andress and Ryan Annett provide a constant supply of lineout ball while backrow players such as Rory Winters and Peter Logan have impressed all season and particularly against Wallace High School. In the Methody backline, David McElhinney, Marc Gribben, Peter Colhoun and Matthew McFaul are all potential match winners. This will be a most intriguing Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup clash involving two of the giants of schools’ rugby on this island. This game has been scheduled to kick off at 10-30 am.
Bangor Grammar School will look to players such as Gareth Irvine, Darren Kelly, Luke Dornan and Jonny Gordon in their pack to see them through a potentially difficult encounter when they meet Grosvenor Grammar School in their Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Subsidiary Shield quarter-final game at the Ballymacormick Road venue on Saturday. The Bangor pack will have to front up to their Grosvenor counterparts if they are to get the quality possession their talented backline thrives upon. Craig Harper, Philip Harper, Stuart McCloskey, Daniel Kennedy and Michael Aspley have an abundance of pace but need possession. The Grosvenor team lost to Coleraine AI in their 4th Round game but only with the last play of the game. Their pack performed heroics in that game with Matthew Cahoon, Stuart Smyth, Marc Foster and Ryan McKnight laying the foundations for a fine team performance against the Coleraine AI team. It would not have been an injustice had the Grosvenor team won. They will hope to cause an upset in Bangor on Saturday and could do so if the home team does not give them the respect they deserve. This game is due to kick off at 10-30 am.
Dalriada School 1st xv gave the much vaunted RBAI team something of a scare when the two teams met in the 4th Round of the Schools’ Cup. The RBAI team only really won the game in the last ten minutes when they adopted a more physical game plan. The Dalriada team will hope to play their normal expansive style of rugby when they host Regent House in the Subsidiary Shield on Saturday. The Ballymoney boys will hope that Roger Bonnar, Andrew Skelton and the rest of the Dalriada pack can provide enough quality possession to enable them to unleash their talented back division. Rhys McAuley and Ben Henderson form an effective half back partnership while Jonny McLaughlin, Jonny Laughlin and Jonny McMullan have the ability to ask questions of any defence. The Regent team will hope that the experience of players such as Stephen Deering, Willie Mayne, Nathan Burns, Steven Colwell, Stephen Adams and Jonny Quigg in Schools’ Cup matches this season will come through strongly enough to enable them to provide adequate opposition for a very talented Dalriada team. This game is due to kick off at 11-15 am.
The Belfast High School team had the benefit of two away wins in the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup before losing their 4th Round game at home to Sullivan Upper. They will hope the experience will stand them in good stead when they face the Ballymena Academy team at the Shore Road venue in the Subsidiary Shield on Saturday. They lost heavily to the same opposition last term but Ryan McGonigle, Jake Toan, Chris Taylor and their Belfast High School team mates are a much more confident team now. Ryan Elliott, Adam White and Robbie Fryers have developed into an effective midfield trio and the Ballymena team will need to monitor them closely. Having won comfortably in the pre-Christmas game the Ballymena team will see themselves as favourites to win this game. They have talented players throughout their team with Caleb Morrison, John Andrew, Peter Wallace, Sam McNabney and Nicholas Sterling all keen to put the disappointment of their loss against RS Armagh behind them. If they can, this could be a very entertaining game. This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30 am.
The Down High School was unfortunate to lose with the last play of the game in their recent 4th Round Schools’ Cup encounter against Ballyclare High School. If they can take the positives from that game into their home Ulster Schools’ Subsidiary Shield encounter against Wallace High School on Saturday, there could be a shock result on the cards. The down team has beaten the Wallace team already this season and will be all out for a repeat result on Saturday. They have had a major boost with the return to action of Stuart Orr, their tight head prop. This has helped lift the team and especially John Donnan, Tom McConnell and Mathew McKeown in the Down High School pack. Aaron Cairns and Justin Rea combine well at half back and will cause problems for the Wallace High School defence. The Wallace team was devastated to lose their 4th Round Schools’ Cup encounter against Methodist College. However, they have regrouped well and will have a real go at winning the Subsidiary Shield. The return of Daniel Henry to the ranks has been a major boost as have the displays from Cal McIlwaine, Nathan McClatchey, Jordan Heatley and Peter Weir in recent games. Both teams hope to progress in this competition but only one will! This game will kick off at 10-30 am.
Rainey Endowed School will host Banbridge Academy in the semi-final of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Bowl competition on Saturday. The Rainey team is a mixture of youth and experience and could be labelled as one of the most improved teams in Ulster Schools’ Rugby this season. Jamie Burrows, Damien McMurray, Luke Steele and Martin Connolly all bring experience to the team and will hope to reach the final of the Schools’ Bowl competition. They play a Banbridge Academy team that should not be underestimated. The Co Down team has talented players in the ranks as well. Andrew McConnell, Tom Jess and Martin Bradley form a talented backrow trio while Chrissy Craig, Michael Runciman and Michael Ross are exciting Banbridge backs who will attack at every opportunity. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00 am.
The second of the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Bowl semi-finals will take place on Wednesday 23rd February when Friends’ School host Foyle and Londonderry College. The Foyle team with representative players such as Ian Vance at half back, Neil Burns on the wing and Tom Burns in the back row will see themselves as favourites to progress to the final. They have other talented players such as Graeme McCarter, Kyle Henderson and Conor Cummings in their back division and the Friends’ team will need to monitor these players closely. The Lisburn team seems to have recovered from the disappointment of losing their Schools’ Cup clash against Bangor. Good wins against Carrickfergus Grammar School and Larne Grammar School in recent outings shows what the team is capable of doing. However, they are monitoring closely the injury worries surrounding a number of key players. If they have a full squad from which to select for this game the Friends’ team could pull off a shock result. Rory McIvor, Michael Cochrane and the rest of the Friends’ squad will be hoping they can. This game is scheduled to kick off at 2-30 pm.
Supporters will be made welcome at all these games.

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