Enniskillen Royal Grammar School coach Ashley Finlay feels his side have it in their locker to overcome Schools’ Cup favourites Wallace in the quarter final of the competition but he knows that if they are to achieve that then they are going to have to be at their very best.
Finlay watched his side produce a strong display as they sealed a 52-0 win away to Grosvenor in the last 16 on Saturday although he is aware that they face a different proposition in the quarter-finals with the draw having pitted them with an away tie against Wallace.
“Wallace are tipped as one of the favourites if not the favourites mainly because they have three or four absolute quality players who have been training with the Irish camp at U18 and U19 schools level.
“The away draw is not ideal but whether we had got Methody, Ballymena or RBAI it would always have been a tough game, there are no easy ones in the quarter finals, so now we are just focusing on what we need to do and how we need to prepare to beat them. We are definitely capable of that and we will go into the game knowing that we can beat them but we do need to perform at our best,” he said.
The sides have already met this year with Wallace edging a high scoring, tight affair, 36-35.
“We have played Wallace already and lost 36-35 to them in Lisburn about three months ago but we have worked very hard since then and know that we have closed the gap again. We are much better physically in terms of our strength and conditioning than we were back then and defensively we have really solidified as well so I don’t think they will be able to score as many points against us but it is whether we can break them down as well as we did that day. We are not afraid to travel, we have got results on road and we are used to playing the big Belfast teams so we will just take it as it is,” he explained.
And he says the whole pressure will be on Wallace when the sides meet on Saturday February 22.
“Traditionally Wallace wouldn’t be one of the big, big teams but with the group of players they have at the minute they have been labelled with that favourites tag which does put a wee bit of added pressure on, as does it being at home. If we can start the game like we did against Grosvenor at a really high intensity and get the first score on the board it will put them under more pressure and hopefully we can then continue from that and get the result.”
Finlay was delighted with how his side performed last Saturday, dominating with the wind at their backs in the first half.
“It was an excellent performance, we came out of the blocks with the wind behind us and we took it to them up front. I felt we executed our back plays well, we put them under pressure and we got some good scores.
“We started the game with real high intensity and dominated the physical battle which then let us play a bit more rugby. It was very difficult for them to play with a really stiff breeze into their face and we kept them down in their half, forced them into errors and then we capitalised.”
And they were also able to hold out the home side in the second half as well as add two further tries at the other end of the pitch.
“Into the wind in the second half they put on a lot of pressure, they were in our 22 for a fair bit but the defence was resolute. Even with the changes and bringing on a few subs, they all stepped up and contributed to the defensive performance. We got another two further tries in the second half, working our way up the pitch, we couldn’t really kick so we had to work from very deep and it was very pleasing to see that too.”