Coleraine Inst First XV coach Richard Beggs paid tribiute to the development work which has taken place in recent years after his side reach the semi finals of the Danske Bank Schools Cup.
Inst saw off Ballyclare High School 10-9 in a hard-fought quarter final on Saturday morning and speaking afterwards Beggs said the coaching plan put in place several years earlier is now bearing fruit.
“It’s three years since we last reached the semi final of the Schools Cup, so there’s a real buzz about the school,” said Beggs.
“Rugby in general is going really well. We have had a five-year plan in place and have been slowly building to this point.
“It’s good that the senior team can set the tone for the rest of the school.
“The coaching staff right through the different age groups at the school have got these boys here today, and they deserve the credit for their development too.
“The Headmaster has been very supportive in what we’ve been trying to do and it is certainly bearing fruit now.”
The Ballyclare team had the wind advantage in the first half and controlled the game in the opening quarter.
Matthew McDowell was successful with a penalty kick to give his team a deserved 3-0 lead.
From the restart Coleraine put in a sustained effort which proved difficult for the Ballyclare side to compete with.
Multiple powerful runs from Coleraine drew in the Ballyclare defence which allowed Jake Scott, Brad Dempster and Johnny Crowe the opportunity to make good ground.
Some great handling from the home back line resulted in number eight, Joel Stanbridge, making hard yards.
He drew the last Ballyclare defender to great effect and passed to Mark Gordon who ran in to touch down for an unconverted try to give his Colerane AI team a 5-3 lead.
The Ballyclare HS team captain, Matthew Brolly, asked his team for an all-out effort and they certainly did not disappoint.
McDowell was successful with his second penalty of the game to give the Ballyclare HS team a 6-5 lead.
McDowell was then successful with his third penalty kick to see his team into a 9-5 lead at the break.
A great run from Conor Shiels, in which he was stopped only a matter of feet from the Ballyclare line, led to a powerful carry from the supporting Coleraine AI prop Andy Moore.
Andy took a number of Ballyclare players with him as he touched the ball down to put his team into a 10-9 lead.
Ballyclare recovered from this set back and laid siege on the Coleraine AI line. However, some great defending followed from Coleraine AI, with the pick of the tackling coming from Mark Gordon.
“We knew it was going to be a very tough battle for us today,” continued Beggs.
“Ballyclare have had a really good pedigree in this competition over the last few years so as I say we knew that it was going to be tough.
“We didn’t really show up in the first half. Ballyclare beat us to the break down and they were quicker on the ball.
“They deserved to be in front at the break.
“But I thought we showed up a bit better in the second half. We started to go through our phases and our patterns of play and started to put a bit more structure into the game.
“It told in the end for us with a couple of late tries.”
Meanwhile, tickets are on sale for the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final on Monday 17th March (kick off 3pm), with a saving of 20% available now.
The ‘Early Bird’ offer allows schools rugby fans in Ulster to save at least 20% if they purchase their ticket for the final before 8th March, meaning prices start at just £4 for children and £8 for adults. Transactions can be made over the counter at the Ravenhill Ticket Office or by visiting www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
The Danske Bank Schools’ Cup is the second oldest competition in world rugby and in recent years has produced 29 of Ulster’s current playing squad.
Ulster Rugby is encouraging all fans to purchase tickets in advance of the game to avoid lengthy queues on match day.
Ticket prices on the gate will be confirmed in due course.