Cambridge House’s pupils will enjoy a novelty as they begin their Danske Bank Schools’ Cup campaign this weekend.
With their own pitches unplayable at present after the recent heavy rain, the Galgorm Road boys will instead play their opening round fixture against Limavady Grammar at Ballymena Rugby Club, under the Eaton Park floodlights (7.30pm).
“We’ve had problems with our own pitch so we’re very grateful to Ballymena for making Eaton Park available to us and for the help they have given us,” coach John Nicholl told Times Sport.
“Playing in the Schools’ Cup is a big thing anyway for the boys but the fact they are getting to play on the First XV pitch at Eaton Park, under the floodlights, adds to the occasion.
“We haven’t played Limavady but from what I’ve gathered from speaking to other coaches, their record this season might be something similar to ours so it could well be a close game.”
It has been a challenging season for Nicholl’s young side but wins before Christmas against Larne Grammar and Carrickfergus Grammar have lifted morale.
Those results have also coincided with the return from injury of Ulster Schools prop Houston Bonnar and he is a key player, along with the hard-working back row of Harry Spiers, Travis Boyd and Reuben Russell.
Behind the scrum, out-half James Bovill is Cambridge House’s top points scorer, while fifth year pupil Sam Millar has also caught the eye with his performances at centre.
Certainly, if preparation is anything to go by, Cambridge won’t be found wanting, as the boys make good use of the new strength and conditioning facilities which opened earlier in the school year.
“The boys are in for stretching at 6.30am and then start training at 7am,” explains John.
“They then go to the canteen and have breakfast together which is great for team bonding.
“We’re trying to introduce more of a rugby culture within the school.
“It’s the type of thing where we won’t maybe see the results overnight but the signs are encouraging because our junior teams have been flying.
“The third years won the North West Cup, beating Coleraine Inst in the final and the first years have been doing well, so it augers well for the future,” added John.