SCHOOLS’ CUP: Improving BRA plotting downfall of Ballymena Academy

Ballymena Academy's Alexander Clarke
Ballymena Academy's Alexander Clarke

Ballymena Academy had a lot of work to do before they were able to overcome the challenge of a young Wallace High School side in the third round.

That victory will have given them a great deal of confidence as they prepare to host Belfast Royal Academy in the quarter-final on Saturday.

The experienced Ballymena coaching staff off John Andrews and Gavin Murray, who are assisted by Aaron Moore and Ryan Keating, would see their team as having had a good season so far.

However, a recent victory against MCB, as well as a Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup win against Wallace High, was needed as it offset earlier defeats against Campbell College and Wallace High School.

They have a strong pack of forwards from which to select. Alexander Clarke, a member of last season’s Ireland U18 FIRA squad, is a key player in that pack.

Jonny McKeown, also a member of the 2015 FIRA squad, is joined by team captain, Marcus Rea, in a dynamic Ballymena Academy back row. Marcus was also captain of the Ulster U19 team.

The Ballymena backline has a number of players who can work well with the ball in hand given the right con

BRA will have taken a great deal of confidence from their third round victory over Down High School.

They had been beaten earlier in the season by the same opposition and that victory is a mark of just how much BRA have improved in recent weeks.

Director of Rugby at BRA, Brian McLaughlin, was delighted with the outcome but will now have set his eyes firmly on the game in Ballymena.

In tandem with first team coach, David Creighton, Brian will be plotting a route to the semi-final.

Team captain Gareth McAdams has led by example throughout the season and nowhere more so than in the games against Grosvenor Grammar School and Down High School.

Michael Wilson has notched up a lot of points for BRA already this season. He is a superb place kicker, who kicked three first half penalties, one first half conversion, a second half conversion as well as a second half penalty to secure 16 vital points in their Round two game against Grosvenor Grammar.

Michael has also scored quite a few tries in the course of the current season. Conor McAuley, Lewis Davidson and Conor O’Neill have been the top try scorers for BRA and Ballymena will have to monitor these three players.

Jack Burton, Jay McCrum and Francis Collins are other renowned finishers in the ranks of the BRA team as is Tim Robinson who touched down for a try in the third round.