Ballyclare High ’s First XV blasted their way past Down High to set up a Schools’ Cup quarter-final clash with Sullivan Upper on February 23.
Dan Soper’s team - last year’s beaten finalists - eased to a comfortable 33-5 win over Down High thanks to a hat-trick of tries from skipper Jonny Darling, and scores from David Allen and Jordan McKisntry.
The visitors opened the scoring when number eight Darling picked up from the base of the scrum to crash over the line. Jack Irvine converted the try to put the Ballyclare High School team into a 7-0 lead.
Down High School responded when Nathan Gibson landed an unconverted try to bring the home side back within two points of Ballyclare.
Midway through the first session Darling crossed over for his second of the game as he took advantage of fine forward play to touch down under the posts, leaving Irvine with the simplest of conversions.
Ballyclare stepped it up a gear with two quickfire tries before the interval.
Irvine put a superb kick into the corner and from the resulting line-out, Allen stole possession and darted over for an unconverted try net a 19-5 lead. On the stroke of half-time, Darling landed his third score of the morning to put his side well and truly in the driving seat. Irvine added the extras to give them a commanding 26-5 lead at the break.
Down began the second half strongly but despite asking questions of the Ballyclare defence they simply could not find a way through. They also gave away a number of penalties which helped Ballyclare clear the danger.
Flanker Jordan McKinstry landed the only try of the second half after he took advantage of a turnover ball and ran in for a try. Irvine rounded things off with another successful conversion.