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Schools’ Cup: RBAI’s ‘culture and unity’ coming through in perfect time for Methody showdown in semi-final at Kingspan Stadium

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RBAI’s Oliver Clark evades Sullivan Upper tacklers to score in his side’s victory on Saturday morning. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

RBAI’s Oliver Clark evades Sullivan Upper tacklers to score in his side’s victory on Saturday morning. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

High achiver: Wallace High’s Finn Rankin celebrates with team-mates after a try against Ballymena Academy. Credit: Peter Morrison

High achiver: Wallace High’s Finn Rankin celebrates with team-mates after a try against Ballymena Academy. Credit: Peter Morrison

Ballyclare High’s Bryn McCallan is tackled by Methodist College players. Credit: Peter Morrison

Ballyclare High’s Bryn McCallan is tackled by Methodist College players. Credit: Peter Morrison

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RBAI’s Oliver Clark evades Sullivan Upper tacklers to score in his side’s victory on Saturday morning. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

After running in six tries in a 38-13 win over Sullivan Upper to set up a mouthwatering Danske Bank Schools’ Cup semi-final against bitter rivals Methodist College, RBAI director of rugby Jamie Kirk instead focused on the other side of their game.

The Belfast school were good value for their quarter-final win in Holywood, tries from Bryn Ward, Myles Lowe, Rory Stewart, Oliver Clark, Jamie Beattie and Jacob Boyd leading them to a comfortable victory that sent them into the last-four.

But while their attacking flair was what looked most impressive on the final scoreboard, Kirk was happier to see them limit their hosts to just the one try from Rory Carson, plus a conversion and penalty from Conor McMaster, and another penalty from Harry McKeown.

“It was a good match. It was certainly more competitive than the scoreline would suggest, Sullivan were challenging us in a lot of areas. But we’re obviously really pleased with how our boys did and we’re starting to build nicely. We’ve started to get a bit more accurate,” said Kirk.

“The big thing we were really pleased with was the heart we showed. Right at the end, we already had the game won and Sullivan were attacking our line over and over, and we could have just easily let them in for another try. But the heart and effort we showed to keep them out to the final whistle was something I found the most pleasing.

“We’ll need that for the next round. We can take some good confidence from it and we have two more weeks to get better, so that’s the plan.”

In the build-up to the game, Kirk had expressed his desire to see his team continue to improve as the season progressed having started the year rather slowly in terms of results, and he believed they got that improvement he was looking for in Saturday’s last-eight clash.

“Throughout the season we knew there were better performances in them from what we were seeing. We’d seen glimpses in those fixtures we were quite disappointed with the results in. We knew the talent was there, it was about getting it to fire and it took a while for that to happen,” he added.

“But the boys are clear in the way we can play and we’re starting to come together as a squad at the right time. That culture and unity in the team and the rugby club is starting to come through and that’s a real strength.

“We trusted they had those performances in them, it was just waiting for them to emerge.”

It will be a tantalising rivalry against Methody that they have to look forward to at Kingspan Stadium on March 1 after the competition’s most successful side battled past Ballyclare High in a gritty 21-6 road win to seal their place in the semi-finals.

Methody had the reliable boot of Ben McFarlane to thank for their win, their kicker keeping the scoreboard ticking over — particularly in the second-half — with 11 points, with their tries coming from Lorcan Hanratty and Chris Bradley.

Ballyclare kept themselves in it through penalties from Callum Cochrane and Alex Darrah, but it would be Methody who would triumph to set up a thrilling last-four game in two weeks’ time.

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“It’s fantastic to have the occasion and get back to Kingspan Stadium after last season. The boys need no more motivation on either side than it being Inst-Methody,” grinned Kirk. “We’ll be very motivated over the next couple of weeks working towards March 1.”

The winners of that game will take on either Campbell College or Wallace High in the final after they defeated Dromore High and Ballymena Academy respectively and will contest their semi-final at the same venue a day later.

In what was considered the tie of the round, it was Wallace who edged out Ballymena in Lisburn as Cameron Doak, brother of Ulster scrum-half Nathan and son of former head coach Neil, scored two tries in a 12-7 victory.

The prop went over for the first two scores of the game, with fly-half Matthew Halliday converting the first, before Ballymena made it a game again when Daniel Vercoe-Rodgers went over for their only score late on, converted by Tristan Ferguson, but the home side held on for the victory.

Meanwhile, the scoreline might have looked a little one-sided but Dromore High put up a brave fight against Campbell College as the Belfast school progressed 26-8.

Dromore had taken the lead through the boot of Nathan Hook, but tighthead prop Darragh Hanlon had Campbell ahead at half-time before the forward rumbled over again shortly after the restart for their second.

Matthew Heasley crossed for the visitors to close the gap to 12-8, but tries from Peter Caves and Zac Solomon saw the hosts stretch away late on, with Caves adding both conversions.


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