Schools' Cup: Inst on track for treble after win over Campbell
Campbell College 3 - RBAI 10
Holders Royal Belfast Academical Institution remain on course for a hat-trick of titles and will now meet Ballymena Academy in the semi-finals of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup after emerging convincing winners over Campbell College at Fox's Field.
This last-four meeting with the Academy will be a re-run of last year's semi-final, when Inst progressed to win their second title in a row against, as it happened, Campbell.
Inst head coach Dan Soper's men will face-off with Ballymena, who beat Wallace High School 21-17 in their quarter-final, on Monday February 27 at the Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 2.30).
The other semi-final sees Methodist College cross swords with Belfast Royal Academy, and it will be played the next day, February 28, at the same time.
Methody beat Royal School Armagh 28-24 to get to within one game of the St Patrick's Day showpiece while BRA are in the last four due to Friends' School Lisburn being withdrawn.
"It was a very tight cup fixture between two of the fancied sides and we're happy to be on the right side of it," said Soper, whose team coped admirably after shipping a number of injuries in the quarter-final.
"We were pretty fortunate to just hang in there a few times but we live to fight another day so we'll take it," he said.
Campbell head coach Brian Robinson, meanwhile, admitted that his charges had critically failed to get points when on offer.
"I felt that Inst took their chances and we didn't.
"Credit to Inst they defended very well."
As expected, it turned out to be a full-on contest between Inst and Campbell which in many ways mirrored last year's final, with the game in the balance up until the dying moments.
And, yet again, Inst showed their huge character and inner belief, to not only resist Campbell's physical presence, but also demonstrate that cup rugby is about absorbing pressure as well as scoring.
Full-back Joe Finnegan scored Inst's two tries, at the end of either half, but there were also powerful performances from out-half Michael Lowry - whose tackle on Josh Newell saved a certain score at a critical moment in the second half - and prop Callum Reid who, most notably, got close to running the length of Fox's Field with a vital intercept.
They weren't alone with another big game coming from flanker Charlie Cloke who did some sterling work at the breakdown while scrum-half Rhys O'Donnell was also sharp.
Indeed, but for Yasser Omar losing the ball in the act of scoring, after Lowry's break, Inst would have had more breathing space in the final minutes.
But there was no doubting they deserved the result.