Enniskillen Royal Grammar School will bid to make it through to the quarter finals of the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup when they host Friends School from Lisburn in the first knockout round on Saturday.

ERGS Head Coach Ashley Finlay is not overly familiar with their opponents and says that their main focus is on getting their own game right for the contest.

“They aren’t a school that we face in our regular schedule so we don’t know too much about them which sometimes can be a good thing. They topped their group so they are obviously a good side but we have focused more on our own game and what we need to get right,” he said.

ERGS qualified after finishing second in their group but Finlay acknowledges that preparations have not run smoothly since booking their place in the last 16 of the competition.

“It’s been a pretty disruptive six or eight weeks, really. We were due to play Dromore and Sligo in December but both those games were cancelled. We then had a tough game against Dungannon and a blitz up in Antrim since the turn of the year which was important to get some minutes back in the legs.

“We would have preferred maybe one more game to try and build some momentum and get a bit more consistency in our game but a lot of teams will be in the same situation, especially given the weather the last 10 days or so,” he added.

Finlay also has a couple of key injury concerns ahead of the contest but he stresses that with the strength in depth in the squad, he has confidence in whoever plays.

“A couple of injuries and a couple of niggles. Our captain Tadhg Hambly has a bit of hamstring strain so he is currently 50/50 whether he’ll be able to start or not. Winger Andrew Martin is a long term injury having torn his ACL back in November and Eamon Greene is currently going through the GRTP protocol having sustained a concussion a few weeks back. Despite this we have great depth in the squad this year, probably the best I’ve seen in my 10 years at school, so we have complete confidence in the boys who will be stepping in.”

And he feels that home advantage is a big plus at this stage of the competition.

“It is always a huge advantage to get a home draw, especially in the first knockout game. That routine and familiarity will help our prep on the morning and the boys will take it all in their stride. We know there will be a big crowd down, the community really get behind the boys for the cup run and that support will help drive the boys on,” said Finlay.

Exciting encounter

The ERGS Head Coach is expecting an exciting encounter and knows that his side are going to have to produce a season best display if they are to put their name in the hat for the last eight.

“As with any knockout game it’ll be physical battle and Friends will look to start with real intent. It is up to us to try and manage our emotions and nerves and have confidence in ourselves to deliver the type of performance we know we are capable of.

“We have a very talented group of boys who look to play with a high tempo and bully the opposition before getting the ball to space. It’ll be an exciting and entertaining game.

“We will need our best performance of the year and find the balance between being very tough to beat and breakdown but also playing our own style of fast, expansive rugby. I have no doubt we will score tries but we need to be really accurate at the breakdown and ruthless in defence and that is where the game will be won or lost,” he concluded.