Methody book final date with old enemy RBAI
Methody 29 RS Armagh 3
This is the last time that the Danske Bank Schools' Cup trophy will be presented at the bottom of the existing grandstand at Ravenhill so it is only fitting that it should be given to the captain of one of the teams that have won the title most – RBAI or Methodist College.
It is four years since they last met in the final and they do so again on Monday, March 18 after Methody led by captain Ross Kane proved much too strong for a gallant Armagh Royal.
The Belfast side had the strength up front, especially in the set pieces and had the territorial advantage throughout and could well have won by a larger margin.
They gave away a number of penalties close to the Armagh line and squandered other chances when their line-out didn't work efficiently. Armagh only came close to scoring a try in the final minute.
Holders Methody went in front after nine minutes when Connor McKee broke through, linked with Josh Bingham who sent Patrick Colhoun in at the corner.
Rudi Benade then showed his speed down the right but was bundled into touch. The second try came just five minutes later when centre Colhoun handed off his opposite number, made 15 metres and passed to flanker Matthew McIvor who scored.
Three minutes later Armagh pressure was rewarded with a 30 metre Alastair Wright penalty but Methody came back when full-back Adam Liddell sped up the left to half-way, kicked ahead and Armagh had no alternative but to carry over their own line.
From the scrum, Matthew Rainey, who linked well with his three-quarters throughout, took the narrow side for McKee to spin round and touch down.
Armagh centre Luke Reaney was badly concussed and had to be stretchered off but thankfully recovered quickly. They then threw everything into attack and had a couple of penalty opportunities to reduce the deficit but unluckily Wright hit the upright from 18 and then 33 metres.
In the second half Methody had another great chance to score after they had been encamped close to their opponent's line but after a few forward surges ended just short, second row forward Alex Thomson dropped the ball two metres out.
Nine minutes in second row forward Marc Campbell showed his strength when he crashed over for his team's fourth try and John Bingham managed the conversion.
Armagh retorted when flanker Jonathan Morton charged up the pitch but his efforts were once again thwarted as the Belfast side stole possession. After 24 minutes Bingham broke from the '22' but was stopped metres short. Following recycling James Gallagher picked up and dived over for Bingham to again goal.
Armagh took play right up to their opponent's line for the final minutes but were eventually dispossessed and the ball was kicked into touch to end an entertaining tie.
Methody coach Nicky Wells said: "We had a few good tries but full credit to Armagh who defended magnificently.
"We will certainly have to step up our game before we face the 'old enemy' on Monday week. We made a number of errors but maybe we were trying too much.
"This was our third hard game, after having taken on Campbell, then Wallace and now Armagh but there is still a lot of work to be done. We will come back strongly and hopefully we haven't suffered too many injuries after such a brawling encounter."
Opposite number Kenny Hooks was rightly proud of the Armagh performance.
"We just couldn't get into the game as they were so strong," he said. "They played front foot ball all the time and the few times we had possession we were under a lot of pressure as any team continually going forward will cause damage.
"Unfortunately we didn't win enough ball and they were too physical with no apparent weaknesses. They played fantastically in the first half and their full-back had a brilliant game. Our side are not the biggest in the world but we gave it our best shot. You can't ask for anything more than that.
"The boys put their bodies on the line and if you do that then nobody can criticise you. It was a great day for my team, a special occasion and a lot would give their 'eye teeth' to be involved in a Schools' Cup tie at Ravenhill."
• Dromore High, after taking a 24-3 interval advantage, went on to defeat Slemish College 48-3 to earn a final place in the Danske Bank High Schools' Trophy.
Ryan Hughes (4), Adam Reaney, Ross Bingham, Kurtis Jackson and Stephen Mills were the try scorers with TJ Morris converting four.
Dromore will now meet the winners of the other semi-final between Ballynahinch and Craigavon which will be played next Wednesday.