Campbell are striding ahead after narrow win over Methody
Campbell College 11-10 Methodist College
After digging deep to win a closely contested quarter-final against Methody at their Fox's Field home, Campbell College advance to cross swords with Dalriada at the Kingspan Stadium on March 1 with a place in the St Patrick's Day final awaiting the winner.
Dalriada progressed with a 17-5 home victory over Bangor Grammar while the other semi-final - due to be played on February 29 - pitches together holders Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Ballymena Academy after the pair overcame Sullivan Upper and Belfast Royal Academy respectively.
Inst had the easier passage after they swept past Sullivan 38-0 at Osborne Park while Ballymena Academy saw off BRA 20-9.
Meanwhile, in the Subsidiary Shield quarter-finals, Down High School accounted for Ballyclare High School 25-12 while Wallace High School easily saw off local rivals Friends' School 28-3 and Coleraine Grammar defeated Foyle College 31-10. Rainey Endowed and Regent House will replay after their game ended at 13-13.
The Shield semi-finals will see either Rainey or Regent host Down High while Coleraine entertain Wallace.
The Bowl final will be contested between Grosvenor Grammar and Portora Royal School after they respectively defeated Omagh Academy and Royal School Armagh.
Campbell's narrow victory over Methody was a mighty tussle packed with plenty of endeavour from both sides, which was duly noted by the winning head coach Brian Robinson who knows that his side will have to greatly improve to make St Patrick's Day.
Pre-match favourites Campbell had been leading 11-3 - thanks to the decisive try scored late on by No.8 Jack Barry Glendinning - but with the game in injury-time, visiting out-half Paul Kerr intercepted a pass in his own half to run in and dot down.
Kerr's conversion closed Campbell's lead to a solitary point just before full-time.
Campbell had largely dominated possession and territory in the second period following Methody's purple patch in the opening half which had still seen Campbell lead 6-3 at the turnaround.
A relieved Robinson said: "We got ourselves into a winning position and in cups that's what it's all about.
"We haven't been there (the semi-finals) for a while and have played Methody for three of the last four years so that's a big one for us to get over.
"Just to get the boys to the Kingspan is part of the journey and we're all looking forward to it."
Robinson also rightly praised Methody, who kept Campbell prop Andrew O'Toole pretty quiet and, on several occasions in the second-half, produced some magnificent defence - with hooker Oliver Cairns prominent.
"Methody had done their homework," stated former Ireland international Robinson.
"They slowed us up and didn't let us play and they played to their strengths.
"They defended heroically but we kept coming. We played really well in the second-half and we played a lot of territory and possession.
"We like to play the ball but, yes, their intercept came in the last minute and we'll learn from it."
Underdogs Methody made the brighter start and Kerr landed an early penalty following a strong burst from centre Josh Jordan.
But with Campbell looking rattled, the visitors failed to capitalise on the scoreboard. The east Belfast school tied the scores with a long-range penalty from flanker John Crowther before a dominant Methody spilled the ball. Kerr was then wide with a 31st minute penalty.
Indeed, it took a tap and go from scrum-half Malcolm Corry to break the siege and put Campbell in position to end the half three ahead when he then nailed a penalty.
Early yellow cards for Campbell winger Jack Howard and Methody second row Thomas Gallagher reduced both to 14, though, for the side in black, the option to kick for the corner with a kickable penalty led to no reward.
And after Corry missed a 52nd minute shot at goal, it began to look as if Campbell were never going to build on their narrow lead. But with full-back Ben Webb and centre Jonny Haldane finding more space to help bring the hard-carrying Glendinning into the game, Campbell's began to turn the screw.
Late on, centre Nicolai Koplewsky was held up over the line - prop Matthew Russell had also been stopped from scoring earlier - and Glendinning picked up from the scrum and pirouetted through to score.
Crowther missed the conversion but Methody now needed two scores to win. They did get one with Kerr's intercept but the clock beat them and Campbell deservedly progressed.