IF RAINEY are to lift their second Danske Bank Schools Bowl in three years they will have to do it the hard way, according to their captain Michael Dawson.
The Magherafelt men were devastated after they were knocked out of the Schools Cup by lowly Regent House but stormed back, putting Royal School Dungannon and Portadown College to the sword enroute to the Bowl final at Stevenson Park today (Thursday).
But Omagh, who defeated Rainey earlier in the season, will be the toughest tussle that Rainey have faced this year.
“I think this game has to be won up front,” said Rainey captain, Michael Dawson. “They have a big pack and we have to go toe-to-toe with them there if we want to win. We played them earlier in the year and we had a few missing from the pack but we’ve a lot of resolve and a few surprises up our sleeves.
“Their pack was big and ruthless when we played them last and we are expecting something similar in the final. They really got stuck into us. We don’t really want to get into an arm wrestle with the Omagh forwards - our pack would be far more dynamic though and if we can get a good platform for the backs we will win.
“They are going to rumble and rumble around the sides of the ruck, and as long as we are prepared to put our bodies on the line and take out their big men, I’ve no doubt that we will win and am glad we are bringing a big crowd to support us.”
Rainey won the Ulster Schools’ Bowl two seasons ago at Stevenson Park against Friends School Lisburn in a closely fought encounter. Since then the team have had some great results in Dungannon including a 47-0 drumming of the Royal School in the Bowl quarter-final.
“I think our appearance in the final two years ago will definitely help us,” Dawson continued. “There are only a few of us left who were involved that day. However, I think there is a bit more to it than that: these guys from Omagh beat us up when we played them last, and we want revenge for that. The incentive is not just to win a final.
“The great thing is that we have younger players in key areas and this will be a great experience for them going into next season. Outhalf and both centres are all in Lower Sixth and they will be the ones to take the top roles next year.
“In the end the Bowl means as much to us as playing in the Cup final and we really want to win it. We should have beaten Regent House but we were just too cocky and they came out and played us off the park, their intensity was better than ours.
“I think we’ve learned our lesson from that. Against Dungannon and Portadown College in the semi-final we were far more intense around the rucks and secured our ball. The backs then were able to execute really well with the space provided up front.”
Omagh Academy won their way past Foyle and Londonderry College in the Bowl semi-final after overcoming Grosvenor in the quarters by 5-3. Both matches saw the Omagh men control territory and possession while their opposition were able to create a number of midfield breaks which they were unable to convert.
Pivotal to Rainey’s attacking play will be the half-back partnership of Oisin Quinn and Kieran Lynch. The dynamic duo don’t kick a lot of ball but take it brilliantly to the line in search of their outside runners.
“We need to get it wide to our speedsters again,” said scrum-half Oisin Quinn. “We will need to move Omagh around the park and really make them work hard for everything. We’re at our best with the ball in hand and if we get enough of it I think we will run them off the park. That’s when the gaps will start appearing for guys like Matthew Stewart, Jonathan Lees and Arran Murphy.
“The experience of the last game with Omagh was that we just didn’t get into it at all. We let them play to their strengths and we didn’t play to ours. They were well drilled in a rough type of rugby.
“They are street-smart around the rucks - never giving us clean ball and playing the referee - and every time we got in good areas they were able to turn us over or slow us up. That really killed us and we have to look after the ball better in the final.”