RBAI stand in way of Wallace High School quest to claim maiden Ulster Schools’ Cup victory

Wallace High School is not a name which has yet been engraved as winning rugby’s second oldest trophy.

But the players who will, at the fifth attempt, hope to correct that omission have a very real chance of creating history for Lisburn today.

This afternoon, at the Kingspan Stadium, the opposition will be provided by Royal Belfast Academical Institution, who, on 29 occasions have lifted the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup.

Wallace’s progress to the decider has arguably been the more demanding, the comfortable defeat of Portora Royal followed by a gritty 11-3 win over Ballyclare, while the 12-10 semi-final victory over holders Methodist College tested their quality in every area.

Winger Andrew Cardosi is a threat on the flank, and also an outstanding place-kicker, while scrum-half Jonny Stewart is an imaginative and reliable link with an effective pack.

But RBAI’s familiarity with Ulster schoolboy rugby’s showpiece occasion is bound to be a major factor, and on no fewer than 54 St Patrick’s Days the black-and-gold jerseys have featured. Before leaving for the stadium Ulster and Ireland No. 8 Roger Wilson will present each squad member with his kit.

Many will hope they can have the impact on the sport Wilson has had, and his work ethic will be something coach Dan Soper will demand of his troops.

Their path to the final would appear to have been less exhausting, Regent House easily negotiated, and Royal School, Armagh, beaten 23-0 in the quarter-final. In the semi-final, the threat of Coleraine ‘Inst’ proved greater than most pundits anticipated, and centre Callum McLaughlin’s intervention proved decisive in a robust 10-6 victory.

RBAI’s experience and its real strength in depth, combined with certain injury concerns surrounding the fitness of key Wallace personnel, makes the Belfast side favourites.

But in a season of some upsets at schools level many who have been privy to Wallace’s below-the-radar approach to the game sense the trophy might be making a short trip down the motorway to evidence a first-ever success in the tournament.

RBAI: A McGregor; J Finnegan, C McLaughlin, J Hume, J Conlin; M Lowry, TJ Morris;

J Chambers, R McComiskey, J Dickson; G Bell, C Wallace; L McNamara (Capt), M Mairs, E Harbinson.

Replacements: C Reid, N Saulters, D Wallace, A Thompson, P Nicholas, M Young, P Dolaghan, B McGavock

WALLACE HS: P Hylands; C Guiney, A Cardosi, R Wilson, B Finlay; N Kilpatrick, J Stewart; J Blair, B Pentland, A Weir; P Ferguson, G Malley; S Moore (Capt), M Trouton, A Irvine.

Replacements: M Smyth, G Dillon, N Woods, T Baird, G Chan, A Heaps, I Nzewi, A Black.

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