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Michael Lowry holding the key to Inst's bid for Schools' Cup glory

By Jonathan Bradley

The first of the Danske Bank Schools' Cup semi-finals takes place this afternoon when RBAI take on Coleraine AI (2.30pm kick-off).

Back in the Kingspan Stadium after one year at Upper Malone, Inst come into the last four having seen off the challenges of Regent House and Royal School Armagh.

At this stage of the competition, no school has been more dominant than the side coached by Richard Hedley and Daniel Soper, who have won by scores of 36-0 and 23-0, but the former believes that today will require a step up in performance.

"The games always get tougher," said Hedley.

"Armagh was certainly tougher than Regent, Coleraine will certainly be tougher again.

"If the conditions aren't great it won't suit us but I think we have a good ability to adapt our game.

"We played them early in the season and had a really good game with them. We won but it was tight.

"Their scrum was good, their maul was strong. It was a bit like what we got from Regent and Armagh but they probably have a bit more behind the scrum, a good 10, a good 13 and some pace out wide.

"It would suit us if they try to move the ball because that's the kind of game we like to play but I think it will certainly be close."

The south Belfast school have fielded a relatively young team throughout the campaign but much attention has been focused on the fifth year pupil Michael Lowry.

Still with two years at this level ahead, Lowry pulls the strings from out-half where his partnership with scrum-half TJ Morris has proven fruitful.

On his number 10, Hedley added: "He's very good and has a whole lot of potential.

"Probably what helped him this season was that he had a break of about five weeks when he picked up a knock and was off of his feet for a bit.

"It re-energised him and in the cup he's been really good.

"He certainly doesn't play like a fifth year and it will be interesting to see what he's doing in two years' time."

Coleraine AI return to the semi-final stage having lost out in the last four to Sullivan Upper 12 months ago.

Looking to make their first final since 1998, when they were coincidentally beaten 57-3 by today's opponents, the Bannsiders were seeded in the top eight this time around and have already accounted for Down High, in a game where they recovered from a 22-7 deficit to win 34-28, and Omagh Academy this season.

Blindside Oliver McDowell scored a brace of tries in the third round win and the team is captained by fellow flanker Peter Bonnar.

The school is hoping for a memorable end to a last year of competition under their current moniker as an amalgamation with Coleraine High this summer will see them become Coleraine Grammar next season.

Today's winners will progress to the showpiece final on St. Patrick's day where they will face the winner of Thursday's contest between Methody and Wallace.

Coleraine AI: (15-9) M Smyth; N Cameron, M Norris, A Wisener, T Lavery; C Smith, B Campbell. (1-8) D McAllister, D Greatorex, M O'Neill; J McCarroll, A Corbett; O McDowell, P Bonnar (captain), P Wiesner. (16-23) A McKee, A Moore, C Hamilton, J Bleakly, G Mawhinney, R Gillan, Z Hutchinson, C Skuce.

RBAI: (15-9) A McGregor; J Finnegan, C McLaughlin, B McGavok, J Conlin; M Lowry, TJ Morris. (1-8) J Chambers, Ryan McComiskey, J Dickson; G Bell, C Wallace; L McNamara (captain), E Harbinson, M Mairs. (16-23) C Reid, N Saulters, D Wallace, B Robinson, P Nicholas, M Young, P Dolaghan, M Keane.

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