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Regent House have faith in Harris to lead their silverware bid

By Ronnie Ingram

Regent House will start as favourites against Royal School Dungannon as they aim to go improve on last season's third-round exit in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup.

Their hopes of a prolonged run in the competition are boosted by an improved scrum and a generally better outlook from the squad.

"We are a lot stronger this year and our record shows that we have won more than we have lost," commented coach Peter Lowry.

"Our pack is strong, especially the front row of Robert Brown, Tom Arthur Donnan and Kyle Van Giesen.

"Prop Van Giesen is only a fifth former, but is very solid. We have been scrummaging well and there is a completely different attitude since September.

"Our captain and second row forward Jonathan Harris plays for Ulster Schools' and his leadership has been an example to the younger players."

Dungannon, the holders of the Danske Bank Schools' Trophy, would have hoped for an easier first round tie, but have been building on last season's success.

"We had a large number of year 14 boys in our squad then so this year many younger players have been integrated into the team," said coach Gareth McClintock.

"They, along with the more experienced players, have had some mixed performances, but have been keen to learn and develop. We have the potential to play really competitive rugby when fully fit and the recent tour to Portugal has helped us bond as a squad.

"We are well prepared and although we are away from home and Regent have a better record we are perfectly capably of pulling off a surprise."

Lurgan College have already defeated Carrickfergus Grammar 13-7 in a game when both teams were much weakened, but it's the Cup this time.

Lurgan have won nine of their 14 games and their best performance was against Down High, which they narrowly lost in the final five minutes.

"Trevor Carruthers has come in to help coach the backs and Ulster Branch's Paul Heasley has been instrumental in improving our fitness and conditioning," stated Lurgan coach Geoff Caldwell.

"This is a big game for us as we would dearly love to make the next round. Our leading scorer is our captain and No. 8 Matthew Laird with seven tries. He is strong at the breakdown and leads by example on the pitch.

"Winger Harry Webb and second row Ryan Emerson have also contributed a number of scores.

"Our defence is strong and we have a mobile front five who will need to carry lots of ball if we are to succeed."

Carrick have had their share of injuries which meant that seven of the firsts were out in November, but things have been improving since then.

"Our 34-22 victory over Omagh Academy was a big boost to our confidence," said Neal Kennedy.

"Behind the scrum we have a couple of talented centres in our captain Jake Porter and Christian Robinson and up front No. 8 Tom Gilpin has represented Ulster, while in the backs Daniel Anaele has been on the Under-17 training squad."

In the remaining ties Antrim Grammar, who beat Strabane Academy 26-7 in the Preliminary round, face a difficult task at Banbridge Academy while Limavady Grammar, with only two back from the team that reached the semi-finals of the Subsidiary Shield, meet Wellington College.

Friends' School and Portadown College battle it out in Lisburn and Cambridge House welcome a young Grosvenor Grammar.

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