RBAI v RS ARMAGH: Armagh boys look to upstage rugby’s Schools’ Cup holders in semi-final

Royal Belfast Acacdemical Institution

Royal School, Armagh, will attempt to do on Wednesday afternoon what no other school has done in the past three years - beat Royal Belfast Academical Institution at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm).

The first of this week’s Dankse Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-finals takes place at the Belfast venue this afternoon (2.30pm), with Inst looking to make their fourth straight return to the final and lift the trophy again.

Royal School Armagh

Armagh’s last appearance in the final was in 2004 when they defeated Campbell College for their ninth outright win in 12 finals.

Having enjoyed a successful season in terms of some positive results gained in the lead up to the start of their Cup campaign, they enjoyed fine victories over Cambridge House and the much fancied Wallace High in the previous rounds.

Coached by Willie Faloon and Chris Parker who are assisted by James McCall - if any sage wisdom or advice is required from a more experienced source then the grandfatherly figure of Kenny Hooks is never far away to assist in whatever way he can.

Parker especially looked forward to the previous Cup game as it saw him return to his Alma Mater where he certainly caused an upset.

Captained by Jack Treanor who has led by example throughout the season he works well alongside the experienced Nicholas Jennings and Zac Thompson, who is one of the leading try scorers.

Thompson is also the top points scorer in what has been an outstanding season with his trusty boot.

Matthew Reaney, as well as being a vital cog in the team, is head boy in the school.

The performances of all these players against the Wallace in the quarter-final game were exemplary.

This Armagh team is a competent team who play the game in a positive way and have scored a lot of tries in their games this season.

Ryan O’Neill and Nicholas Jennings were members of the Ulster Schools’ U18 Inter-Provincial winning team earlier in the season.

Jennings would dearly love to emulate the success experienced by his father, John, who scored the winning try for school side which lifted the Cup in 1977.

Jonny Agnew, Jude Roberts and Charlie Worth are involved with the U17 Schools’ development group while Josh King has been involved at U16 Ulster level.

Worth has become established as a positive player, who can play in a number of different positions.

The Inst defence will need to monitor all these players closely.

The loss of the influential Benji Boyd to injury prior to the quarter-final did not impact as seriously as it might on the RS Armagh players due to the depth and adaptability of the talent that exists within the squad.

Royal Belfast Academical Institution had comfortable enough passage to the penultimate stage this season agianst Ballyclare High and Sullivan Upper.

However, it is felt that, in spite of being made to work hard for their victories in both these games, the Inst players have not played to their full potential yet.

The current holders of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup and have held the cup for the past three seasons.

The last school to make it four in row, was in fact Inst - in the period 1943-1948, when the Belfast school won it six successive years.

Team coach, Dan Soper, who continues to receive assistance from Richard Hedley with coaching responsibilities, can call upon the expertise of Gavin Noble as physiotherapist, Mike Bentley who looks after the strength and conditioning aspects of team preparation and Andrew Douglas in the vitally important role as Team Manager.

Captain David McCann who has the experienced Niall Armstrong to assist him as Vice- Captain.

The team has been undefeated so far this season against teams from schools in Ulster.

David McCann and Angus Adair were vital members of the Ulster Schools’ U18 team and both have attended Ireland Schools’ camps.

Robin McIlveen was also involved with the U18 Schools’ team and, but for injury, would have attended the Ireland camps. His return has been a major boost to the squad as his performances against Ballyclare and Sullivan would suggest.

Niall Armstrong and David Lyttle, both of whom were involved with the Ulster U19 team, have two Cup Winners medals already. Both will be among a number of players the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department will be watching closely. They have played leading roles this season

The Inst players and staff will be unlikely to leave anything to chance as they prepare for this crunch Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game.

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