Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Wallace hold no fear in bid for Schools Cup decider

Wallace High School celebrate victory over Campbell College in the Schools' Cup quarter-final

in the moments following any Danske Bank Schools' Cup draw, it always seems as if there is one man you don't want to be; the coach in charge of whichever team is paired with Methody.

It is Derek Suffern who finds himself in that unenviable position today as he readies his Wallace squad to face the south Belfast giants in the first of the competition's semi-finals. However, he refuses to be daunted by the scenario.

Suffern is well versed in facing off against Nicky Wells' side and steadfastly believes that now is the time for his Lisburn school to pull off a shock.

Ahead of this afternoon's game at Upper Malone (2.30pm), he commented: "We're very used to drawing them at this stage to be honest.

"We got them in this competition last year and it was the same two years before that. Our Seconds have got them in the cup a few times as well so we know what to expect anyway.

"It's obviously going to be very difficult as Methody always seem to be able to find a way to win, even when they don't play well, but we'll be going into it looking to win.

"I feel we're more than capable of doing it as well."

And with Wallace aiming to reach their first Schools' Cup final since a 2007 defeat to RBAI – one of four losses in the Ravenhill showpiece – Suffern feels the squad are suitably motivated for the task at hand.

"Everyone in our squad has trained so well over the last week and you can tell how big a game it's going to be," said the man also charged with negotiating Ballynahinch's survival battle in AIL 1A.

"With the nature of the Schools' Cup, the way it acts as such a focus for rugby at this level, this is the biggest occasion you can have outside of getting to a final.

"In many ways these boys have been preparing six or seven years for a game like this."

While Irish Schools' full-back Jacob Stockdale receives much of the attention, scrum-half Jonathan Stewart has also been in fine form and Suffern believes his forwards are a wrongly unheralded group.

"There may not be any star names in there but they're eight guys who really play for each other and they work really well as a unit," he added.

While Wallace had a highly impressive quarter-final win over Campbell College, Methody overcame a considerable hurdle of their own in the last round as they eked out a hard-fought victory over fierce rivals RBAI.

The most decorated school in the history of the famed old competition, Methody have not lost a Schools' Cup fixture since a quarter-final defeat to Campbell back in 2011 and have conceded only six points in their two ties to date this season.

They were given a scare in the last round but their always well-drilled defence came through once again and Wallace will have to be at their best to make a breakthrough.

For Nicky Wells, this year's campaign also represents a chance for a considerable personal accolade as he attempts to lead his side to three consecutive titles.

The last time such a feat occurred was over 20 years ago when Methody won the third of three straight finals back in 1991.

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