Schools' Cup: Methody's 'energy and effort' prove too hot for Inst
Methodist College 29-14 RBAI
There was no denying Methodist College their place in the last four as their triumph in the Belfast derby was built on fairly irresistible foundations of skill, power and pace.
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The favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2014 worked their way past Royal Belfast Academical Institution's endeavour at a windy Pirrie Park knowing they can improve ahead of facing Wallace High School - who beat Rainey Endowed 36-12 in difficult weather conditions - on Wednesday March 6 in the second Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup semi-final.
The day before Methody's clash with Wallace, holders Campbell College meet Royal School Armagh in a re-run of last year's final.
Campbell defeated Enniskillen Royal Grammar School 38-22 at Fox's Field while Armagh Royal squeezed through by 14-10 at a rain swept Ballymena Academy.
Methody progressed by scoring four tries to Inst's two and showed that for all their much-admired backline, they possess a hard-nosed pack of forwards who can also win games.
"It's fantastic (to reach the semi-finals)," said Methody assistant coach Stephen Lindsay.
"It's a great occasion to get there and it's what we want to achieve every year so we'll keep working and see where we go.
"It's always a tough game when Methody play Inst, the rivalry is immense for this Belfast derby and I'm just pleased we've come through it," he added.
"It was crucial for us to go 15-7 up at half-time and then we got a score early in the second half.
"You want the boys to bring the energy and effort which they did and, whenever your set plays don't work as well as they can, it's that energy and effort that sees it home and the boys showed that," added Lindsay.
He mentioned out-half Thomas Armstrong, who scored Methody's last try near the end, as running the game well but there were other attention-grabbing performances from full back Ethan McIlroy, who kicked three conversions and a penalty and scrum-half Callum Davison, who was another try scorer.
Try-scoring hooker Daniel Humphreys, winger Chris Larmour and flanker David Boden also made notable contributions to the cause for head coach Nicky Wells' squad though, clearly, some work will be needed to tighten up some of Methody's lineout work before the semi-final.
Though Inst started brightly thanks to out-half Bradley McNamara dotting down after eight minutes, with Robin McIlveen converting, they were, ultimately, unable to live with Methody when they turned up the intensity.
Inst were unlucky not to get a try on the stroke of half-time - with Methody leading 15-7 - when winger Simon Jackson was held up over the line by Davison and did narrow the margin to 22-14 in the latter stages of the second half, through Angus Adair's score and McIlveen's conversion, but head coach Jason Morgan had few complaints at the outcome.
"I was very proud of the way the boys played and against a real quality Methody side," said Morgan after his first Schools' Cup in charge at Inst after succeeding Dan Soper.
"We got a good start but we must ended up making too many errors though the boys threw everything at this.
"Losing our nine (Marco Manso) to injury early on didn't help but Methody were excellent."
Inst had come charging out of the blocks at a typically raucous atmosphere at Pirrie Park for such a huge clash between the two Belfast rivals.
After putting a penalty towards Inst's corner, a good drive from lock Daniel Eakin helped create the chance for McNamara to score with McIlveen's conversion making it 7-0 early on.
That put it up to Methody to respond and they did just before the half hour when some good approach work from their pack saw Davison appear to get the try.
McIlroy missed the conversion but his 14th minute penalty, following a good Methody maul, put the hosts in the lead 8-7 and, from there, they stayed in front.
Seven minutes before the break, Methody launched another series of close-in drives and Humphreys ended up crossing the Inst line.
This time McIlroy converted to put Methody 15-7 in front which is how the opening half ended after Davison prevented Inst from scoring right at the end.
From the restart, the home side then started to go through the gears and McIlroy's break and link with Larmour saw Methody surge into Inst's 22.
Despite some great scramble defence, the hosts put winger Tom O'Doherty in space to score their third which McIlroy converted.
Trailing 22-7, Inst still got Angus Adair over to offer them hope of revival, but Armstrong's solo run ended such notions.
Danske Bank Schools' Cup quarter-finals Campbell 38 Enniskillen Royal 22
Balllymena Acad 10 RS Armagh 14
Methody 29 RBAI 14
Rainey 12 Wallace HS 36
(Games to be played on Tuesday March 5, Wednesday March 6)
Campbell v RS Armagh
Methody v Wallace HS