Classy RBAI still kings of Ulster rugby after Campbell College Schools' Cup triumph
RBAI 13 Campbell College 3
RBAI completed a clean sweep of Ulster Schools' rugby thanks to a remarkably resolute 13-3 win in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final over Campbell College at Kingspan.
Last season's champions - now the first school to win both the Schools' Cup and Medallion Shield in consecutive seasons as well as those competitions in addition to the 2nd and 3rd XV trophies in the same year - were indebted to centre James Hume who scored all 13 points but the scoreline told only part of the story.
Clinging to a 6-3 lead for virtually all the second-half, Inst somehow held Campbell without a try thanks to some heroic defending in a period where they barely launched an attack.
The eventual runners-up were pressing right until the final moments when Hume intercepted a wayward pass and streaked clear from inside his own half to settle the contest.
Inst had started on the front foot, a penalty from Hume opening the scoring after two minutes when Campbell were pinged for not rolling away. The first try almost arrived soon after, a delightfully disguised inside pass from scrum-half Rhys O'Donnell putting Hume into space but the centre's offload was knocked on.
From there, though, it was all Campbell.
Penalties were giving the east Belfast side a route into the game but, unable to gain much traction out of touch, Inst held onto their slender lead until just past the 20-minute mark.
With Inst coming in at the side, flanker John Crowther stepped up to the relatively lengthy penalty attempt and confidently struck the ball between the uprights to level the game.
Five minutes before the half, Campbell seemed sure to take their first lead of the day but RBAI somehow held on.
After a lengthy stoppage for treatment to Inst prop John Dickson, Campbell attacked through midfield pairing Jonny Haldane and Nicolai Koplewsky.
Koplewsky broke from the half-way line, sending his centre partner Haldane scarpering up the touchline.
Haldane's kick ahead was measured well, with Koplewsky looking set to apply the finish but Inst captain Conor Field came in to hack the ball dead.
From the ensuing scrum, Campbell threatened further, Patrick Beverland trying to dance his way through before his forwards took up the charge.
An intentional knock-on brought a penalty, duly sent to the corner, but Pierce McLernon pinched the line-out.
As Inst tried to play their way out, a loose pass gave Campbell another opportunity to pounce but the ball was lost at the breakdown. When Ben McGavok's clearing kick was dropped in the sunlight, Inst could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
With the clock showing red, Campbell came in at the side ten metres inside their own half with Hume ruthlessly punishing the mistake to give his side a 6-3 lead at the turn.
The game resumed with Campbell still pressing, both Field and McGavock forced into making crucial try saving tackles in opposite corners either side of a lineout stolen by Campbell's James Nelson.
A missed penalty for Campbell provided a setback but they were straight back into RBAI territory, Dan Soper's side forced to absorb wave upon wave of pressure, before launching their first attack of the half in the 55th minute.
With the ball having gone loose, winger Mark Keane scooped it up and darted forward, chasing his own kick.
Just beaten to the ball by the covering Campbell player, Keane launched himself into the tackle, the referee adjudging the attempt was high and sending him to the sin bin.
Inst were living dangerously but surviving against all odds.
One attempt to exploit the numerical advantage saw a wayward pass drift into touch when Campbell's forwards seemed set to work an overlap and, even when they did cross the whitewash, the score was ruled out.
Powerful number 8 Jack Barry Glendinning grounded the ball after diving over from close range but referee Stuart Gaffikin had spotted a knock-on in the build up.
With Keane returning to the fray, and only moments left of the game, a bouncing pass landed agonisingly between two Campbell players and Hume gathered inside his own half. Belying the physical exertions of the afternoon, he sprinted as if it was the first minute, just evading a last-ditch attempt at a tap tackle to score under the posts.
Converting the score with the last play of the game, it was Inst's name on the famous trophy for a second consecutive year.
RBAI: Joseph Finnegan; Conor Field, James Hume, Ben McGavock, Mark Keane; Michael Lowry, Rhys O'Donnell; Callum Reid, Neil Saulters, John Dickson, Harry Gallagher, Pierce McLernon, Charlie Fryers, Charles Cloke, David Whitten
Replacements: Bailey Gribben (for Fryers, 58), Jake Chambers, Corrie Barrett (for Dickson, 43), Blair Robinson (for McLernon, 35), Yasser Omar (for Cloke, 44), Niall Armstrong, David Lyttle, Zak Davidson.
Campbell College: Ben Webb; Justin Savage, Jonny Haldane, Nicolai Koplewsky, Jack Howard; Patrick Beverland, Malcolm Corry; Matthew Russell, James Boyle, Tom O'Toole; James Nelson, Matthew Crowther ; Jamie Macartney, John Crowther, Jack Barry-Glendinning
Replacements: Josh Chambers, Jamie Clarke (for Boyle, 54), John McKee (for Russell, 43), Marcus Collim, Tom Brady (for Nelson, 52), Rory Cahoon, Oscar Yandall, Ryan Meharg
Referee: Stuart Gaffikin
Man of the match: James Hume
Match Rating: 8/10.