Schools’ Cup: Holders Campbell College face Royal School Armagh in first of semi-finals
One of last year’s Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup finalists will be returning this season as cup holders, Campbell College meet Royal School Armagh in the first of this week’s semi-finals at Kingspan Stadium on Tuesday (2.30pm).
Campbell survived a few scares in their fourth round tie away to Sullivan Upper and came through their quarter-final home tie against Enniskillen RGS in a reasonably comfortable manner.
Their grip on the Cup has tightened and they appear to be keen to maintain, and indeed strengthen, that grip on the famous trophy.
A recent run of impressive results against renowned schools from Munster and Leinster, alongside last two Schools’ Cup victories, the Belfast side are keen to reach the final again.
Campbell are coached by the experienced Brian Robinson who can call upon the youthful exuberance of Jonny Cupitt to assist him.
Neil Doak continues to act in an advisory capacity to both and his experience as a coach is off great value to the school.
The team is captained by Rex Tinsley - also school Head Boy - who brings great leadership qualities to the role. He is also a calming influence when playing in the centre and directing operations with the Campbell back division.
Campbell players such as Jack Stinson, Conor Rankin, Paddy McAlpine, Jack Boal, Finlay Parks and Luke Collins have been involved with various Ulster and, in some cases, Ireland Age Grade squads.
Rankin is the leading point’s scorer on the Campbell College team and he has caused untold problems for opposition teams this season with his eye for the line as well as a deadly accurate boot off the tee.
Tobi Olaniyan, Ben Rainey and James Johnston form a dynamic break away trio in the Campbell back row and, in John Gildea, they have a young player who puts in a great deal of effort with his performances in the front row.
One of the keys to unlocking the outcome of this semi-final could be the battle of the respective back row trios.
Danny Williamson, Tinsley, Kieran Robertson, Dara Gaskin, Jack Boal and Ollie Ralston have all been regular try scorers for the Belfast school this season.
Royal School, Armagh team recorded an impressive victory at home against Bangor Grammar in the fourth round and then came through a more challenging game when they travelled to play, and defeat, a previously undefeated at home Ballymena Academy team in the quarter-finals.
The Armagh coaching staff, with Willie Faloon and Chris Parker at the helm, know they are in the fortunate position of being able to call upon the sage advice and wisdom of Kenny Hooks when the going gets tough.
He acts almost in a grandfatherly fashion when it comes to mentoring the young coaches at the school.
Aaron Woods leads the Armagh team from the back row and has seen his team mates put in some great performances in the course of the current season.
His performance in this semi-final game, alongside that of Jonny Agnew and Peter Taylor in the back row, against their opposite numbers on the Campbell team, will be watched with interest.
Charlie Worth, a young exciting scrum half who has played for both the Ulster Schools’ U18 and U19 teams earlier in the season, is the leading point’s scorer for the team.
He shone with his performance playing in the centre against Ballymena while the return to play of Benji Boyd has been seen as a real boost for Armagh.
Peter Taylor is the leading try scorer and like Worth, has taken advantage of the clever play of Nicholas Jennings whose creativity has been central to the side’s success this season.
Nicholas is a son of John Jennings who scored the winning try for the Royal School, Armagh team in the 1977 final.
Sam Rainey, Jude Roberts and Jonny Agnew have been involved with the Ulster U18 Schools’ squad while Josh King and Ryan Finlay have played with the Ulster Schools’ U17 squad.
Ross Taylor has been involved with the Ulster Schools’ U16 training squad and all these players will be hoping to enhance their reputations with good performances in this semi-final game. A
There are family connections in the Armagh squad with Peter Taylor and Ross Taylor being brothers and Romain Morrow, another excellent place kicker, and Jonny Agnew being cousins.
Quite a number of the Royal School, Armagh players are returning from last year and are eagerly looking forward to going one better this year.