The Road to Kingspan continues on Saturday morning when 14 schools compete for places in the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup third round draw.
There are seven second round ties around the Province, the third teir seeds joining the competition at this stage, joining Cambridge House and Strabane Academy who progressed from the first round.
v Larne Grammar
Limavady Grammar School will host Larne Grammar in the second round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup tomorrow.
There has been a change of guard within the coaching set-up at Limavady with Aaron Hamilton and Ben Cartwright taking on the responsibility of coaching the 1st XV.
They receive back up from Brian Hughes who acts as Master-in-Charge of rugby in the school.
The team captain is their Number 8, Joel Boucher. Joel has led his team well this season and has seen the young squad grow in confidence and ability as the season has progressed.
With talented players such as Joshua Howe - their leading points scorer - his brother James, Austin Hargan, Jon McMichael, Dillon Walsh and Joel Boucher on board, Limavady will look forward with great confidence to their game against Larne.
The visitors have endured a mixed season in terms of results. However, they will approach the game at Limavady with a degree of confidence.
Coached by Nicholas Stirling and Marke Lambe, Larne will realise this game presents them with the opportunity of turning their season around.
The team is captained by Jordan McIlhinney, a player who is equally at home playing at tight head prop or in the back row.
Players such as Jason Ward, Andrew Herron, Jack Lough, Jack Withers and Aaron Gallagher have been regular try-scorers this season and, in Euan Glenn, they have a very fine place kicker.
In Steven Dickey, Larne have a hard-working backrow player who has attracted the attention of the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department.
v Friends School
Despite having lost against Friends’ School, Lisburn in a friendly game when the teams met back in October, Grosvenor Grammar could see themselves going into tomorrow’s clash as favourites to win.
Grosvenor are coached by Mark McDowell, who receives great assistance from Neil Cushley, Owen Henry and David McLaughlin.
The team is captained by Josh Malcolm, a dynamic openside flanker. This has been a difficult season for Grosvenor with a large turnover of 1st XV players from last season to this one.
A new coaching team has also been put in place and significant structural changes have been made to the set-up.
Results have been up and down throughout the season but it is a young side and improvements have slowly been made.
Inside centre, Adam Moore, is the top points scorer with quite a few tries as well as accurate kicking duties to his credit.
James McMaster has been involved with the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 squad and is a key player for Grosvenor, especially at set piece scrum time.
Scrum Half, Mark Crooks, is the Deputy Head Boy of the school and his leadership qualities on the pitch provide great back-up to those of Josh Malcolm.
With the players already mentioned as well as others such as Izzy Young, Josh Patterson, Mark McCance and Jordan Brown on board, Grosvenor will approach the game in a very positive manner.
The Friends’ School team is coached by Stephen Robinson, who continues to receive assistance from Norman Gamble - now in his 37th season of coaching senior rugby in the school - and Aaron Cairns, who looks after the skill development and S&C aspects of preparing the players. Friends are captained by Matthew Chapman, who forms an exciting centre partnership with Jack Harte, a player who has had his abilities recognised by the Ulster Schools’ U18 Management team.
Stuart Patterson played for the Ulster U18 squad during the summer period and, in Reece Malone, Friends’ have one of the most influential outhalves currently playing rugby in an Ulster School at the minute. Kick-off: 10.30am.
v Banbridge Academy
It was almost inevitable when the draw was being made for the second round that, when Cambridge House Grammar School came out of the hat, they would be playing Banbridge Academy.
That is exactly how it turned out and these two teams will face each other, once again at Eaton Park, tomorrow.
Cambridge House are coached by John Nicholl who is assisted by Timmy Small, former Ulster player, Jamie Smith, and Michael Stevenson.
The team is captained by Kane McIlroy, a player who was involved with the Ulster U19 squad when they won a blitz competition involving Sale RFC and Newcastle RFC U19 teams at Barnard Castle School back in August.
Kane has led his team to good effect this season having played 15 games and winning more than they have lost.
The top points scorer for Cambridge House has been Rory McCandless with players such as McIlroy, Ethan Crawford, James McNabney and Josh Mark regularly among the try-scorers as well.
Earlier in the season a squad of ten Year 12 players, six Year 13 players and ten Year 14 players travelled to Portugal for a training camp, which proved to be a great success for everyone concerned.
Banbridge Academy currently hold the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy and will be hoping they will be in a position to defend that title after tomorrow’s game.
The team continues to be coached by Brian Leslie and Roy Stevenson, both of whom have invested a great deal of time and commitment in ensuring their young charges have been well prepared for their forthcoming campaign.
Head Boy, Andrew Denvir, is also the captain of the 1st XV and brings undoubted leadership qualities to his role as captain.
He is captain of a very committed and hard-working group of players who have displayed a very positive attitude throughout, what has been at times, a difficult season results-wise.
Adam Hanna, equally at home on the front or back rows, has had his talents recognised by both the Ulster U18 and U19 management teams. Players such as Hugo Bertholon, Jack Dorman, Jake Houston, Louis O’Neill and Jake Beattie will be hoping to follow Andrew and Adam and produce performances in this intriguing second round game that will ensure their name will be in the draw for the third round.
Lurgan College v
Foyle & L’derry College
Lurgan College will host Foyle and Londonderry College in an intriguing second round tie.
Lurgan College are coached by Kyle McCallan, who is assisted by Rob Logan.
The team is captained by Jon Woods who is also the school’s Head Boy. His imminent return to play after a wrist injury is a major boost to the squad.
The season started well for Lurgan before injuries had an impact during the November/December period. However, some recent positive results have given Lurgan a shot in the arm.
Luke Forsyth, Ewen Mulligan, Ben Marsden, Peter Hutchinson, Harry Bird and Josh Best are other key players who seem to be hitting top form at the right stage of the season.
Foyle and Londonderry College are coached by David Barnett and Alistair Ferguson with Paul O’Kane filling a vital role as Director of Rugby.
The team captain is their effervescent scrum half, Andrew Miller, a player who knows how to lead from the front.
Andrew has impressed with his performances this season as have players such as Tom Adair, Sam Milligan, William Finlay, Ben Galbraith, Scott Pollock and William Watson, who is also Head Boy.
All of these players, alongside their coaches, will be looking to Keelin Coyle, an outstanding centre and member of the Ulster U19 squad, to continue with his points-scoring exploits when they line-up against Lurgan tom tomorrow.
Dromore High School
v Regent House
Since coming on board and entering the competition three seasons ago, Dromore High School has made many people sit up and take notice.
The current squad of very talented Dromore High players are no exception to this and they will be looking forward with eager anticipation to hosting Regent House.
Josh Pentland and Gareth Bronte make up the coaching team while Head Boy, Rhys Dale - their exciting scrum half - is captain of the team.
Sam Fairley currently heads the points list but in team-mates such as Caleb Harper, Cameron Owens, Peter O’Connor, Ben Carey, Tom Dolaghan, Ryan McDowell and Xander Lowham, Sam has many rivals for that honour.
Owens is joined by his twin brother, Jack, on the team and they will be certain to create an impression.
Dromore have bounced back from some heavy defeats and have played well in the run up to Christmas by defeating some well-known and established school teams.
Regent House, having already defeated Dromore High this season, will undoubtedly see themselves as clear favourites to win the second round game.
Coached by Nick Gamble, Mervyn Tweed and Budge Poutney, with Neil Dougan providing the Strength and Conditioning input, Regent House have achieved some great results this season.
The team captain is Keir Edgar, a player who is equally at home playing as a loose head prop or playing in the second row.
Stuart Martin is the top points-scorer in the squad and he is a player who will be only too willing to punish any indiscretions from Dromore his deadly accurate kicking skills off the tee.
Will Hopes is a very clever lineout forward who has gained representative honours earlier in the season with both the Ulster Schools’ U18 team and the Ulster U19 team.
Other Regent House players posing a threat include Mattie McFarland, Josh Heron, Kristian Wallace McKimm, Callum Dawson and Ethan McFerran.
The Regent House squad enjoyed a tour to Bordeaux at Halloween, where they played against two teams: a local town team and an area select team.
They were also coached by British and Irish Lions legend, Tom Smith.
v Antrim Grammar
Carrickfergus Grammar came through successfully against Antrim Grammar when the teams met in the first round in December.
That game saw the Carrickfergus come from behind early in the game and the fact they went on to win it has given the squad great confidence ahead of tomorrow’s game.
Coached by Neal Kennedy, who continues to receive great assistance from the experienced Stephen Martin, as well as the evergreen Michael Dickson, the team has experienced a topsy turvy season thus far in terms of results.
The team is captained jointly by Daniel Curley, also Head Boy of the school, and Adam Gardner.
Adam is joined by his younger brother, Scott, on the team.
They have won a number of games this season and lost others by the narrowest of margins.
The squad is made up of a combination of youth and experience. Year 12 players such as Scott Gardner, Liam Kaprigiannis Green, Dylan Wright and Matthew Alexander have made a smooth transition from Medallion rugby.
They are joined by seasoned Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaigners such as Joshua Irvine, Ewan Milburn, Phil Stewart, Daniel Curley, Adam Gardner, Josh Clements and Luke Jefferson, who will be keen to have an extended run in the competition this season.
Daniel Curley is the top scorer this season due to his try-scoring ability and accuracy with his trusty boot.
Tries have been shared around the squad with props, Joshua Irvine and Liam Kaprigiannis Green, touching down on a number of occasions.
Centre, Jakob McComb, and winger, Josh Clements, have also caused problems for opposition defences this season.
Carrickfergus Grammar School team aims to play fast attacking rugby at all times and, as results have shown, they tend to score plenty of tries.
Down High School are coached by the experienced duo of Charlie Knox and John Gunston with James McBriar looking after the Strength and Conditioning aspects of the preparation for the Schools’ Cup campaign.
The team is captained by their hard-working open-side flanker, Reece Hagan, a player who leads by example both on and off the pitch.
The workload of vice-captain is shared between Greg Hutley and Charlie Marshall.
Both these players offer great support to Reece and are regularly among the points-scorers for Down High.
Greg, an Ulster U18 Schools’ and U19 player, is the leading points-scorer for Down High.
He can play effectively as an outhalf or centre and is a very fine striker of the ball out of hand or off the tee.
Greg has had his talents recognised from further afield and he was recently an attendee at an Ireland Age Grade Camp.
Charlie is a very hard-working No.8 who has scored quite a number of tries this season following dynamic plays from the base of the scrum.
Joe Charles has been involved with the Ulster U17 Schools’ Development squad and should see the campaign as an opportunity to further impress the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department.
Andy McCoubrey, Jonathan Graham, Jakob Cross, Conor Gibson and Stuart Campbell, the Head Boy in Down High School, are other players in this hard-working squad who will be aiming to make their mark.
v Strabane Academy
When Belfast High School host Strabane Academy tomorrow there will be a sense of deja-vu for all concerned as both teams met at the same stage of the competition last season.
On that occasion Belfast High had to dig deep before emerging as eventual winners.
Coaches, Michael Rainey and David Scott, will realise that their team will have to dig deep once again against a team that has already experienced a successful outcome in a Schools’ Cup game this season, with Strabane Academy winning their first round game against Wellington College, Belfast and will travel with confidence to play Belfast High in the next stage.
Captained by Jay Doyle - a player who leads his team effectively and efficiently from the hooker position - Belfast High won’t underestimate Strabane Academy.
Doyle will look to the try-scoring abilities of players such as Cameron McKimm, Andrew Huey, Ross Gray, Jack Ferguson and Thabiso Madlala to assist their team in overcoming the challenges Strabane present on the day.
The place kicking skills of Aaron Douglas could be vital as well against Strabane.
While it has been a difficult season thus far for Belfast High the coaches and players will see this second round game as an opportunity to get the new term of to a good start results-wise.
Having won their recent round one game, Strabane Academy team coach, Niall McDonnell, who continues to receive great support from Steve Sargent, Adam Bratton and Stephen Smyth, will be keen to tell his young squad that the game that really matters now is tomorrow’s tie against Belfast High School.
Similarly, Strabane Academy team captain, Jordan Mealiff, will be keen to play down that previous round win.
He will take the positives from that game and ask his players to focus fully on the job in hand at Belfast High.
Playing at No 8, Jordan is a very committed player who knows how to lead from the front.
He is currently the top points-scorer for the team this season.
Quite a few of the best performances for this Strabane Academy team have been on the road in the course of the current season.
The coaching staff, as well as the players, will take those positive memories into account as they prepare to travel to Newtownabbey.
Other key players in the squad include Jack Sayers, Jamie Brown, Harry McCrossan, Reuben Orr, Jack Kee and David Shaw.
Ralph Mealiff, brother of team captain, Jordan, is another Strabane Academy player the Belfast High defence will need to monitor closely.
James Preston and Reuben Orr are not only fine rugby players but also well known in musical circles in the Strabane area.
They will be hoping to lead a celebratory sing-song at the end of this game tomorrow.