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Rugby: Andy is handy for Antrim grammar

Northern Bank Schools Cup

By David Burke

The Northern Bank Schools' Cup 2007/8 got under way on Monday with Antrim Grammar defeating Strabane Grammar 41-3 in County Tyrone.

Although hosts Strabane started the game brightly and briefly held the lead, Brian Baguley's capable side soon found their rhythm and their dominance throughout was rewarded with six tries; skipper Andy Chestnutt leading the way with a brace.

Centre Craig McIvor also touched down twice, with David Walker and Chris McGregor adding further scores. Outside-half Michael Smith and centre Jonny McDowell shared the kicking duties and 11 points between the pair completed the rout.

This Saturday, Antrim host Wellington College in the second game of the tournament, with the advantage of knowing that a win will see them top the Round 1 table and progress to January's knockout stage.

The Belfast side, meanwhile, will be playing their first competitive game of the season whenever the sides meet at Steeple Road; the round-robin pool climaxing whenever Strabane travel to the capital next Wednesday.

Captained by hooker Matthew McCormick and coached by Nigel Carlisle, Wellington have endured a somewhat mixed start to their season, having won five games and lost seven. However, the Carolan Road men have undoubtedly improved immeasurably in recent years, with Ulster flanker Neil Best being their most illustrious ex-pupil.

In last year's Cup, they bowed out to Bangor Grammar in a tight Round 2 clash while they actually won the competition way back in 1958, albeit in their former guise of Annadale Grammar.

Centre Andrew Harris, who has scored 11 tries so far this term, is likely to be a key man for the South Belfast outfit. Summing up his side's pre-tournament aspirations he said: "The squad is confident that we can win the game on Saturday but we know it will be tough. Obviously it's nice to get the tries but as long as the team plays well, I'm not too concerned about who gets on the score sheet."

The weekend's match is sure to be a tight affair, and the back row battle could well be crucial, with talented number 8's Chris McGregor and Tom Gonzalez going head to head. All in all, it should be an intriguing battle as both teams strive to prolong their involvement in the prestigious competition.

Belfast Telegraph


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