Rainey Endowed School go into this weekend’s second round Danske Bank Schools’ Cup match against Belfast Royal Academy emboldened by wins over perennial championship contenders Ballyclare and Grosvenor.
The Magherafelt School entered the competition in the second round and are expecting a big finale after a superb season which has seen them go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in Schools rugby.
“The build up has been good over the past two weeks,” said First XV Captain Kieran Lynch. “We had a good win against Ballyclare, who were the the round above us (in the Schools’ Cup rankings).
“14-3 was a good win against them and against Grosvenor on Saturday, it was very poor conditions and we couldn’t get up to the standard that we wanted but this year we have been able to see more games out than last year. Most people might have thought we had a stronger team last season but this year overall we have won more games.”
Last year’s First XV was a team packed full of stars who didn’t quite live up to their billing, inexplicably losing out to Regent House in the Cup before being beaten in the Bowl final by Omagh Academy at Dungannon RFC.
For Kieran, the success of this year’s team is simple: “The fifteen players play well together and we just like to go out and win as many games as we can. Last year we had a few boys who would have shone but this team is more together and plays well as a better unit.
“We’ve worked a lot on our fitness and work rate around the park. We are a smaller team compared to last year so we try to move the opposition around rather than crash it up like they would’ve done. We’ve very skillful forwards too; forwards that offload and could play in the back line if they really wanted to.”
Head Coach Chris Campbell also paid tribute to his team and their brilliant start to the season.
“It’s been a great season,” he said. “We’ve probably surprised a few schools and, to be honest, we’ve surprised ourselves to a degree. The credit is all down to the players who have really worked very hard.
“We really didn’t know what to expect (of the team) this year. They’ve played seventeen games and won thirteen. It is a great testament to the players and the commitment and hard work which they have put in on the training pitch and in the gym. They’ve displayed a great attitude and a great will to win which has set up a very tasty game for us in the Second Round of the Schools’ Cup.”
Rainey beat a Ballyclare High team who had been Schools’ Cup semi-finallists in 2013. The Magherafelt lads did not just beat them, but beat them comfortably.
“We’ve beaten a few other big sides, and given some other big boys a run for their money this season. It could be a very interesting cup campaign if everything goes well against Belfast Royal Academy.
“BRA’s results wouldn’t be too different to our own. Obviously they are a big Belfast school and will have many more resources - as far as playing power would go - than we would have.
“I’m sure that they will be a big, big side and we will have to get stuck into them and, if the weather is good, play a fast game and try to tire them out. They come with a big cup tradition and the Belfast schools never like to go out to early in the cup.
“They will come expecting a battle but hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll give them a good battle.”