Barney McGonigle: Ballymena boys out to be city slickers
As two of Ulster’s premier rugby schools, Belfast Royal Academy and Ballymena Academy win a lot more than they lose, for which reason last weekend contravened the norm with both having been beaten.
Tomorrow they meet at Roughfort where both will aim to bounce back and certainly the guests are travelling in strength. Ballymena have full back, Charlie Simpson, available after last weekend's Irish Schools’ call and it is hoped that Caleb Morrison will have shaken off his injury. George Dennison (hamstring problem), is unavailable, however.
BRA, who played well despite losing to Wallace, will hope to see Ian Henderson, David Cartmill, Conor Spence and Jordan Buchanan shine in what should be a cracking contest.
In another city-country clash, Rainey ES host Royal Belfast Academical Institution who will be boosted by the availability of their representative players.
Although Rainey have a proud home record, they know what to expect from RBAI who can get conjure up result, even on bad days. Ask Coleraine AI, their most recent victims.
With a Pirrie Park date with Methodist College now just a week off, RBAI will aim to hone things at Rainey’s expense. Methody themselves are sending two ‘Select’ teams to Wellington College and Antrim GS.
The Malone Road giants have been well served by fringe players while their first choices were on Ulster and Irish Schools’ duty, so coach, Nicky Wells, again will use a number of boys from his 2nd and 3rd XV panels.
Antrim, whose scheduled meeting with Cambridge House last weekend was postponed, will hope to spring a surprise at Steeple Road.
The other Methody ‘Select’ XV will be in action at Carolan Road, home of Wellington College. Like his Antrim GS counterpart, Brian Baguely, Wellington’s Nigel Carlisle is hoping his side can cause an upset.
Grosvenor GS, reeling after last weekend's defeat by Friends, make the brief journey to Holywood to face Sullivan Upper who seldom lose at home.
Grosvenor will look to experienced players like Ryan McKnight, Chris Quinn and Matthew Little to lift them against hosts who will be boosted by the return from injury of several boys.
Another of those city versus slightly-out-of-town clashes sees Belfast HS host Larne GS.
The BHS boys will be buzzing following their away win against Ballyclare HS, while Larne will have their fingers crossed that Ulster Schools’ Under 19 centre, Stuart McIlwaine, fights off his minor injury.
Coleraine AI versus Campbell College is another big match.
The Bannsiders, beaten by RBAI last time out, have been inconsistent and coaches Richard Beggs and Stephen Ritchie will be hoping to see Dean Rankin, Paddy Farrell, Mikey Posnett and back-in-the-fold Ritchie McMaster lead by example.
Campbell, too — hit by injuries and the loss of players to Ulster Schools — have blown hot and cold. Beaten 16-12 in mid-week by Bangor GS, they hope to have a full panel tomorrow. And if Cory Tipping, Rory Scholes, Chris Best and John Creighton do play, that could make all the difference.
Bangor’s scorers against Campbell were Matthew Coey whose try was converted by Stuart McCloskey who also kicked three penalties.
Campbell College replied with an unconverted try following good work from their backs, with Chris Best and Rory Scholes prominent, and a converted try, but it was too little too late.
Thus Bangor remain undefeated and with Philip Whyte returning they will aim to maintain that run when they travel to face Banbridge Academy.
Banbridge beat Lurgan College last weekend, but they had to work hard for their result. Michael Runciman and Shandon Scott are key to them if they are to derail Bangor.
Lurgan College — for whom Josh McKay has been in fine form — entertain Strabane GS, whose heroics are a credit to coach, David Hampton, a man who performs near-miracles with such limited numbers.
Royal School Armagh face neighbours, Portadown College, surprise winners of the corresponding fixture last season. Armagh’s Kenny Hooks has the sort of selection ‘problems’ of which his counterpart, Andrew Symington, can only dream. Just what does one do when one has to accommodate eight representative players returning to a squad thus far undefeated?
His back-again boys include Harry Doyle and Chris Colvin, members of last season’s unbeaten Irish Schools’ team.
The other two ‘Royal’ establishments — Portora and Dungannon — play each other in Enniskillen. Dugannon hope to be able to add the pace of Peter Nelson — available after his Irish Schools’ involvement — to that of Andrew Creaney and Gary Wong. Sadly, Portora lock James Brady is not ready to return.
Dalriada School host Foyle and Londonderry College, revitalised by their victory over Carrickfergus GS, their second of the season. Dalriada are unbeaten, though last time out they had to settle for a draw against Sullivan.
The inclusion of two Ulster Schools’ wingers — Dalriada’s Jonny McLaughlin and Foyle’s David Murdock — should guarantee a running game.
Regent House, who beat Campbell College at Belmont Road last weekend, host Wallace HS who will arrive fresh from having beaten BRA.
The other Lisburn school, Friends, are on the road, too — away to Omagh Academy whose results this term include a win over Coleraine AI.
Omagh, who also made RS Dungannon sweat in their last game, have some very talented boys, David Thompson, Scott Elliott and Aaron Shortt chief amongst them. Friends look like having several players missing through injury following their win at Grosvenor. But with Alasdair Trimble, Craig Ross David McGuigan, Jonathan MacCorkell, Rory McIvor and Michael Cochrane in the ranks, they will hope that is sufficient talent to see them through.
Limavady GS — another undefeated side — host Ballyclare HS and with Robin Craig and Shay McIntosh returning, the Roesiders will fancy their chances of maintaining that fine run.
In contrast, Ballyclare lost last week to Belfast HS, so coach, Daniel Soper, will demand a much-improved display.
Cambridge House go to Carrickfergus GS who will hope to see Peter Stewart, Nathan Greenwood and Marc Gordon continue their recent impressive form.
Adrian Hamilton is back back for the hosts following his involvement with Ulster Schools.