Things are definitely moving towards the business-end of the season now as we enter Quarterfinals’ Week in both the Cup and Plate competitions, and with another ‘Manager of the Month’ to be decided by these results there are important decisions ahead:
CUP & PLATE PREDICTIONS
Ballymena Academy v BRA At the previous stage, both of these academy sides were involved in respectively tight games against Wallace and Down High; as Wallace have shown themselves to be much stronger opposition than Down over the season it would appear, therefore, that Ballymena head into this fixture with better preparation. The home side will also be highly confident given a 38-8 away win over BRA earlier in the season, so director of rugby Brian McLaughlin will need all his Cup expertise if his team are to create surprise result in this fixture.
MY PICK: Ballymena Academy
Campbell College v Methodist College Despite the draw being random, an annual fixture between Campbell and Methody appears to be a certainty of the Cup, at least in recent years. Thankfully a certainty also seems to be that this match-up produces exciting games, and I expect no less come Saturday especially when Methodist College need to prove themselves after a so-far torrid season. However, Campbell have been able to dominate strong opposition and, for the first time in a while, will face MCB without any sense of trepidation; a 19-0 result away at Pirrie Park has already shown they have more than enough to win.
MY PICK: Campbell College
Dalriada v Bangor GS If any of this weekend’s matches go against the so-called formbook it will probably be this one (any takers for a draw?) given how well Bangor have progressed in recent matches and Dalriada’s consistency throughout this season. Funnily enough, Bangor’s recent improvement against strong opposition seems to have started with a slender victory over Dalriada back in December, but the Ballymoney side will have learnt a few lessons from that game and I reckon they will be successful in ending it, albeit by another narrow margin.
MY PICK: Dalriada
RBAI v Sullivan Upper In their previous fixture Sullivan caught Regent flat-footed and scored early tries to take the lead and ultimately win the tie, but the later stages of the game saw them struggle to build further attacks. This will be a concern when facing Inst who generally prevent early scores and make their opposition work for the full 70 minutes to make any type of score. Sullivan will also be without key player Chris Jordan, who has sustained a nasty leg injury, and maybe even their coach Willie Anderson (the best of health and a speedy to you both!). With these setbacks and RBAI playing as confidently as they did against Coleraine in the previous round things look tough for the away side.
MY PICK: RBAI
Down HS v Ballyclare HS Underwhelming; underachievement; inconsistency: unfortunately for both sides these are all words that could easily appear on their schools-rugby report cards but the good news is that its only half-term and there’s time to improve! In my opinion Ballyclare look like the more likely to turn things around as they have a few wins against decent opposition under their belt – at least more so than Down HS – and better competitive experience.
MY PICK: Ballyclare HS
Foyle College v Coleraine GS The home side in this fixture might be pleased to have avoided any long-distant travel, but that may be as good as things get having been drawn against a more-than decent Coleraine team who are having a late surge to their season. Foyle have only managed wins against much weaker sides so far and that will be very unlikely to change in this quarterfinal.
MY PICK: Coleraine GS
Rainey ES v Regent House With a kinder draw in the previous round Rainey could have easily found themselves in a Cup rather than a Plate quarterfinal; by all accounts they provided MCB a strong challenge in Belfast and should be looking to build on that performance. On the other hand, Regent struggled to score any points against a relatively weak Sullivan side and will probably find things even more difficult as they travel up to Magherafelt.
MY PICK: Rainey ES
Wallace HS v Friends’ SL Having done so well to make it to round 3 of the Cup, Friends were unfortunate to be drawn against the strength of Campbell College; now they find themselves up against a similarly strong Wallace High and after a heavy defeat against their previous opponents they will find it very difficult to get anything out of this game. This may be one of the closest rivalries in terms of geography but the home side should be well out in front come the weekend.
MY PICK: Wallace HS
Have a better idea of what to go for now? Get your entry in HERE before the deadline of 10.00am Saturday 20th February