SCHOOLS CUP RUGBY: Portadown expecting more of a challenge

Portadown College are bracing themselves for a greater test in round three of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup.

Portadowns Peter McKeemen
Portadowns Peter McKeemen
Portadowns Peter McKeemen

They enjoyed a relatively straightforward win against Wellington College in the opening round but an ever-improving Belfast Royal Academy could be a more difficult proposition(kick-off 10.30am).

The Portadown College coaches, Andrew Symington and Paul Heasley, feel they have a useful blend of both youth and experience at their disposal with seven Year 12 players, six Year 13 players and ten Year 14 players.

Stewart Hodgen is an effective captain who leads from the front. He is an excellent No 8 who forms an effective back row trio with Jordan Taylor and Scott McDowell. Matthew Neill has been in excellent goal-kicking form throughout the season while centre, Dylan Nelson and winger, Christopher Thornberry, have been among the leading try scorers for the College as has Second Row forward, Alistair Gilpin.

Visitors BRA have had a mixed season but there now seem to be some encouraging signs breaking through. Captain Conor McAuley is a live wire scrum-half who always gives of his best. He directs operations, cajoules and encourages his team mates, scores tries, kicks goals and causes numerous headaches for the opposition players.

Conor has topped the try scoring and the points scoring charts for his team this season. The hard-working Tom Gilpin, in the back row has assisted with the try scoring statistics as has Matthew Borne. Tom had his great ability recognised earlier in the season when he played on the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 team. Matthew Dalton, but for a knee injury, would have played on the Ulster U19 team and His progress will be monitored closely by the Ireland U19 Management.

There are two more emerging players whose progress will be watched closely in Tom Stewart, who can play anywhere in the front row, and Brandon Hasson, who is adept in a number of outside positions in the back line and loves nothing more than to get the ball in his hands.