Schools' Cup: RBAI see off Wallace and go to the top of the class
RBAI 14-10 Wallace HS
It was a close run thing but, at the end, it was Royal Belfast Academical Institution who won the Danske Bank Schools' Cup for the 30th outright time on a raucous occasion at the Kingspan Stadium.
It was Inst's first title since 2007 when they actually defeated yesterday's opponents Wallace High School, who have still to lift the trophy after now suffering five defeats in the showpiece game.
Though the Lisburn school put everything into trying to bag this elusive prize, it was Inst's ability to take their chances and hold firm in defence which nailed this victory.
After Inst led 7-5 at half time through a try from skipper Lewis McNamara, which was converted by TJ Morris, Wallace took the lead back after a score from number eight Max Trouton.
But the Belfast school then bagged the try of the game when winger Jack Conlin ran through to dot down under the posts and Morris' conversion of the 57th-minute score was how it ended despite some huge pressure mounted on the Inst line late on.
Indeed, Wallace were left to rue a number of missed opportunities late on which might have snatched the game, though their inaccuracy at lineout time proved costly.
Inst had the first scoring chance after eight minutes when Wallace were penalised at a lineout but Morris' effort fell short of the mark.
This, though, led to a period of Inst pressure near Wallace's line but a crooked throw and then a knock-on from second row Garrett Bell allowed the Lisburn school to clear.
Inst were then again pinged for a crooked throw from flanker McNamara but they rallied and after a forward-led surge towards the Wallace line, a penalty was secured.
However, Morris snatched at the much easier 18th-minute chance and Inst were still not off the mark.
Still, their pressure continued to force Wallace on the back foot and deep into their own half but on a rare visit to Inst's territory they won a penalty and kicked towards their opponents' 22.
From the lineout, scrum-half Jonny Stewart darted forward and after several strong carries from the pack, Wallace moved the ball out to the right where Connor Guiney made the corner.
Andrew Cardosi missed the difficult conversion from the winger's excellent 26th-minute try but Wallace were up and running at 5-0.
Then, just at the end of normal time, Inst out-half Michael Lowry launched an attack which saw full-back Andrew McGregor chip and then gather the ball on a dangerous incursion into Wallace's 22.
Though Guiney nailed him with an excellent tackle into touch, Wallace then lost the lineout with Bell winning the ball before McNamara drove through to make the line.
This time Morris added the extras and Inst were ahead but then were immediately forced to scramble on their own line after knocking on at the restart.
Though Philip Hylands came close to scoring - Wallace curiously opted to run off the back of a maul which was heading for the line - Inst held out to lead 7-5 at the break.
Cardosi was then agonisingly just short with a 43rd-minute penalty for Wallace.
But the Lisburn school then grabbed their second try after 54 minutes when Stewart somehow got the ball at the back of an Inst scrum just around the Belfast school's 22 and his pass found Trouton, who ran in unopposed.
Cardosi again failed to convert but Wallace now led 10-7. It didn't last long, though, and Inst quickly hit back when Morris found Conlin with an inside pass and the winger weaved his way through to dot down under the posts.
Morris converted Conlin's outstanding effort and Inst were now 14-10 in front.
Wallace did mount a fightback but their territorial dominance yielded nothing as they lost three lineouts near the Inst line.
Matters didn't improve for them in this area and then in the dying minutes, Wallace came again but just couldn't force their way over.
RBAI: Andrew McGregor, Joe Finnegan, Callum McLaughlin, James Hume, Jack Conlin, Michael Lowry, TJ Morris; Jake Chambers, Ryan McComiskey, John Dickson, Garrett Bell, Connor Wallace, Lewis McNamara (capt), Ethan Harbinson, Mark Mairs. Replacements: Callum Reid, Neil Saulters, Dermot Wallace, Andrew Thompson, Patrick Douglas, Matthew Young, Patrick Dolgahan, Ben McGavock
WALLACE HS: Philip Hylands, Connor Guiney, Andrew Cardosi, Ryan Wilson, Ben Finlay, Neil Kilpatrick, Jonny Stewart; Jonathan Blair, Ben Pentland, Andrew Weir, Patrick Ferguson, Graham Malley, Sam Moore (capt), Andrew Irvine, Max Trouton. Replacements: Michael Smyth, Gary Dillon, Nicholas Woods, Tom Baird, Gary Chan, Adam Heaps, Ikenna Nzewi, Adam Black.
Man of the match: Jack Conlin
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Mark Patton