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Fired-up Friends' won't get stuck in second gear, insists Robinson

By Ronnie Ingram

Friends' School had the most convincing Danske Bank Schools' Cup second round success when they beat Antrim Grammar 57-7 - but now they face a much sterner test against Coleraine Grammar.

Friends' coach Stephen Robinson appreciates that Coleraine have been seeded but feels that his team has been improving with every outing.

"Coleraine will start favourites but I feel we are in a good place at the minute as opposed to before Christmas," he explained.

"We had been hounded by long-term injuries but hope to be at full strength and continue on where we left off against Antrim.

"We have been building well with the help of a few experienced players, especially prop Ross Stewart, second row Connor Hall and our captain and flanker Adam Milligan, who scored twice in the eight-try second-round win."

The Lisburn team also has plenty of talent in the backs with speedy Curtis Dundas, who was included in the Ireland Sevens team that won the European Championship in Bucharest in September, in the centre.

The other centre, George Pringle, has played for Ulster Schools and also had two tries in that victory over Antrim, as did the skilful winger David Newell. Two other backs, Ben McCaughey and Bradley Mulholland, are their top try scorers with the former having accumulated the most points.

Robinson admits that Coleraine are an unknown quantity as they are not on Friends' fixture list but he has every respect for them.

"We have home advantage and also the fact that our players have already had a game to calm their nerves means that we should give them a real run out," he concluded.

Coleraine have only won half of their games this season but one was against Sullivan Upper, who are seeded in the top eight.

It has been a slow build up for them due to the absence of their representative players and injuries.

Head coach Richard Boyd has taken confidence from their recent performances, especially that against the Holywood team. That was followed by a narrow but warranted 14-13 victory at RS Armagh at the weekend.

"We have some excellent players who have worked well under the guidance of Michael Ferguson, Michael Poskitt and myself," he explained.

"The second row comprises the hard working Andrew Mooney and Max Bailie, who is a key line-out forward and strong ball carrier. Peter Wisener at No.8 is always on the front foot and encourages the rest of the pack.

"Daniel McCreadie in the centre runs hard lines and is robust in defence while Zac Hutchinson can control from out-half.

"Thomas Lavery can be a real threat on the wing and is steadfast in defence.

"Our training has intensified since Christmas and I feel we are a well balanced team."

The top-seeded teams enter the fourth round draw tomorrow. They are RBAI (holders), Methodist College, Campbell College, Omagh Academy, Ballymena Academy, Wallace High, Sullivan Upper and Down High.

Third round: Limavady Grammar v Dalriada 10.30 am, Grosvenor Grammar V Bangor Grammar 10.30 am, Portadown College v Belfast Royal Academy 10.30 am, RS Dungannon v RS Armagh 10.30 am, Friends' School v Coleraine Grammar 10.30 am, Dromore High v Enniskillen Royal 11 am, Rainey Endowed v Regent House 11 am, Lurgan College v Ballyclare High 11 am.

Belfast Telegraph

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