Royal School Armagh relishing RBAI semi-final challenge in Schools’ Cup

Chris Parker. Pic by INPHO.Chris Parker. Pic by INPHO.
Chris Parker. Pic by INPHO.
If Royal School Armagh are to win the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup they will have to do it the hard way.

They knocked out Campbell in the last 16 then, in the quarter-final, overcame one of the tournament favourites - Ballymena Academy - away from home.

The Armagh side now face 32-time winners RBAI in the first semi-final this afternoon.

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Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker believes playing two of the top-six ranked schools in the earlier rounds will stand the side in good stead for the semi-final clash.

“It’s been a difficult draw but it has us battle-hardened, we’re coming into this with two good encounters under our belt that we have been lucky enough to come out on the right side of, we can take real confidence from that, knowing that we have had two tough tests and got through both,” said Parker. “Tuesday will be another tough test and, hopefully, we can come out on the right side of that as well.”

Armagh edged their quarter-final by 17-14 against Ballymena Academy and, while pleased, Parker knows they will have to offer an improvement in the Inst tie.

“We did really well in the first then we just seemed to lose our composure at key times in the second half,” he said. “We made some really bad decisions that Ballymena very nearly profited from, it was a very pleasing first half but there are a lot of things from the second half that we feel we need to get better at if we’re to beat Inst.

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“The defence was brilliant, there were a couple of times i don’t know how the boys got underneath the ball or got on top of the tackler, it was fantastic.

“We’d like to think we could box a bit smarter in the semi-final, so we don’t have to put ourselves into those positions where we are defending for our lives on the tries.”

Playing at the home of Ulster Rugby will hold no fear for Armagh.

“For a lot of these guys, it is probably their fifth time playing at Kingspan Stadium, because of the Medallion Shield final as well the occasion hopefully shouldn’t get to them and they can just focus on their rugby and go out and try to execute a gameplan,” said Parker. “I think it makes a massive difference, in previous years they may have been a bit nervous about the atmosphere and stuff, there is just an excitement around it now.

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“They are going to be extremely physical - they are going to hit you hard, they are going to carry all day and if we can’t match their physicality, we’re going to struggle.

“If they can get frontfoot ball they are very dangerous, so we are going to have to try to nullify them and make sure that when we have the ball we look after it a bit better and, hopefully, try to put them under a bit of pressure of times.”

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