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Schools' Cup: Inst urged to show a clinical edge as Campbell seek revenge for Kingspan woe

By Michael Sadlier

It promises to be quite an occasion as Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup holders Royal Belfast Academical Institution do battle with old rivals Campbell College at Fox's Field tomorrow (kick-off 11.00pm) in what is undoubtedly the pick of the quarter-finals.

And just to add extra spice, as if it were needed, the clash between the two big hitters is a re-run of last year's closely contested final which saw Inst win 13-3 to take their second title in succession.

Inst make the short journey to east Belfast off the back of their 54-0 hammering of Ballyclare High School when Dan Soper's squad sent out a clear message to their rivals after running in eight tries at Osborne Park from their fourth-round introduction to the competition.

This time, though, last year's champions know that this game will prove a far sterner test of their ambitions to make it all the way to St Patrick's Day again.

Indeed, Campbell are also looking strong this year which was shown in their 29-7 defeat of Sullivan Upper two weekends ago.

Though the more experienced Inst side are thought more likely to be the ones progressing to the last four, Campbell do possess enough power to derail them.

Inst head coach Soper said: "Against Ballyclare what was pleasing was when the boys got an opportunity they took it and that was a real positive to take out of that fixture.

"The boys looked sharp and focused, but once it gets to these big games I often think you'll only get three or so chances when you've got two of the higher profile and bigger teams playing against each other."

Naturally, Inst hope to be going with pretty much the same side which saw off Ballyclare with James Hume - who scored 17 points in the last round - sure to be a handful in the centre while the quality half-back partnership of Rhys O'Donnell and Michael Lowry will also be fundamental to the city centre school's game plan.

Inst have plenty of exciting runners in their backline - wingers Niall Armstrong and Zak Davidson both crossed the line against Ballyclare - but they will have to deal with Campbell's main threat up front.

Here, though, Inst can deploy the experienced Callum Reid, Neil Saunders, Charlie Cloke and Pierce McLernon, who will all be willing to more than front up.

Inst beat their hosts earlier in the season in a friendly in what was a close enough encounter played out on Fox's Field though, of course, that outcome will have little bearing on what pans out tomorrow.

"It was a tight fixture, and I'd imagine it will be much the same this weekend," said Soper.

"They have a strong pack and some very dangerous backs.

"There is a lot of quality in both sides and it should be a pretty good game of rugby."

Inst clearly have the more experienced squad - 13 players featured in last year's cup-winning squad and five were around for the 2015 triumph - but Campbell certainly have a point to prove after only losing out late on in the 2016 shoot-out for the trophy.

They, too, have an experienced core at the heart of their squad with nine players present at the final 11 months ago.

Forwards Tom O'Toole, Matthew Crowther and Jamie Macartney all have some mileage on the clock while new arrival Oisin Kiernan is a promising second row.

Behind the scrum, Oscar Yandell and Ben Webb are still part of Campbell's skilful backline and a threat in broken play.

Campbell's John McKinney said: "They (Inst) will have done their homework and prepared just as we have and they have core strengths which we know about with their attacking threat behind the scrum.

"Our experience would, in the main, be in our pack but they are strong up front which gives their strike runners good opportunities to attack effectively.

"The guys here are very aware of that all as you would expect and it will certainly be a very interesting match."

And, of course, home advantage is to the team in black.

"Getting to play at Fox's Field is a positive thing, there is no doubt about that," said McKinney.

A mighty clash awaits.

Belfast Telegraph

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