Things step up a notch now as only the top teams from each competition remain, invariably pitting them against one another; it’s a great spectacle for the supporters but a headache for those of us trying to make predictions. This time around we have two sets of semifinals and a final to predict, along with the winning margins of the Cup games, and don’t forget that entries must be in by 2pm on Tuesday 3rd March, an earlier time than usual.
We an amalgamation due to take place later this year, this will be the last time the boys from the North compete as Coleraine Academical Institution, so it is fitting that they have secured at least one outing to Ravenhill in this season’s Cup competition. If they do manage to make it a second, winning the Cup outright would be thoroughly deserved as that would mean beating the number-one ranked team this season, RBAI. Belfast Inst have only lost one game so far and are the only school side to take something off an undefeated Wallace HS (a 17-17 draw back in December). While Coleraine’s last two victories will buoy their spirits, RBAI may prove to be too much for them, as recent scoreless defeats to similar-strength sides Wallace HS and Sullivan Upper appear to show
MY PICK: RBAI
This is a fixture that many of us would have liked to see as the final showpiece; nonetheless, it should still prove to be an entertaining and – for their supporters – nerve wrecking seventy minutes of rugby as the Cup’s biggest winners and this season’s undefeated sides go head-to-head. On paper Wallace HS are the favourites for this reason, but Methody’s Cup experience will prove invaluable – and possibly vital – to engineering their opponent’s first defeat. Have said that, I’m going with my gut (it worked in selecting Regent over Carrick last week) and taking Wallace in this game as they have ground out wins before this season in tough situations; that and the fact that Methody have not quite been just as clinical this year, their previous game against Campbell a case in point where they dominated the fixture but won by only six points – a similar performance against Wallace would probably see them exit the competition.
MY PICK: Wallace HS
Portora RS v Ballymena Academy
Limavady GS have very much the surprise of this year’s Cup, making to further than many (including myself) would have expected and coming very close to progressing to the quarterfinal stage; so it seems that Portora RS are the new holders of that title as they convincingly defeated the aforementioned side in last week’s Plate quarterfinals. This has earned them a deserved semifinal place against Ballymena Academy, but is more than likely where the surprises stop given Ballymena’s superior record. The boys from Antrim were probably favourites for this competition as soon as they entered it, and with a good win over Sullivan Upper in the previous round it looks like little has happened to change that. This should easily be a win for Ballymena and a convincing one at that.
MY PICK: Ballymena Academy
When their name was drawn out of the Cup first, Regent and their fans must have been delighted, that is if they were aware that Regent House have only lost one game so far this season at home; the only team they’ve lost to? Well, that would be the team drawn directly after them: Down HS. Regent with go into this game knowing a tough task lies in front of them, but their dominance at home should make this a tight game, even if Down HS will probably claim the victory in the end. However, they need to take care: as Carrickfergus Gs and Foyle College know only too well, Regent are starting to make a habit of beating teams ranked a number of places above them…
MY PICK: Down HS
Both of these teams have been very difficult to judge this season as they have blown both hot and cold, showing great determination to win some games and completely lacking ability in others. For example, Dalriada have managed a 24-17 win over Down HS this season but lost their only Cup game to Bangor GS who looked much the weaker team at the time; Rainey have a 13-0 win over RS Armagh on their sheet this season but also lost to Limavady GS back in October who had not won a single game at that time. It depends then which version of each team will turn up on the day, but I’m placing my bets on Dalriada given that they have been ranked above Rainey all season, had to win tougher games to make it to this final and have already beaten Rainey this seasons – although only just – by 16 points to 12. This should be a close and entertaining final.
MY PICK: Dalriada
Have a better idea of what to go for now? Get your entry in HERE before the earlier deadline of 2pm on Tuesday 3rd March and don’t forget to enter your winning margins for the Cup games.