Tinsley proud as Campbell stand firm and reach final
Campbell Coll 12 RS Armagh 10
Champions Campbell College are back in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final after a tremendous defensive effort against Royal School Armagh at Kingspan Stadium yesterday.
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For long stretches of the 12-10 game, Armagh looked set to gain some degree of revenge for last year's final defeat but, despite a great effort from their forward pack, Campbell made the most of their limited opportunities.
Despite launching only a handful of attacks, Conor Rankin was the hero for the east Belfast side after he scored one try, created another and kicked the crucial conversion.
Speaking afterwards, his captain Rex Tinsley hailed the application of his side in absorbing so much pressure while making the most of their opportunities when they came.
"It was fantastic to put in such a defensive shift," said the centre. "Armagh, full credit to them, but we dug deep and got the result in the end.
"Our coaches Brian Robinson, Johnny Cupitt and Neil Doak, that's what they push in training, just making those decisions at key times."
Twelve of the squad were part of last year's victorious effort and Tinsley added that they'll look forward to their return to Ulster Rugby headquarters against either Methody or Wallace.
"It's great for us to have the opportunity to do it all again. We're a different group this year but we have the same ambitions, we just want to do it all again," he said. "It's a different team, a different group and I'm the captain now so to win it would mean everything."
His side had got off to a great start despite Armagh's dominance, taking an early lead. With Jack Stinson reading Armagh's intentions well, the lock swooped in to pluck a pass from the air and his side's backs sprung into action.
A Rankin offload out of the tackle provided the telling pass and when the ball was recycled it was tighthead Patrick McAlpine on hand to barge over.
Armagh's response was almost immediate. With both sides using linespeed to force the opposition into handling errors, the Royal school cleverly tightened things up and Adam Edgar was the last in a long line of pick and goes.
As the game increasingly settled into a pattern, it was a case of Armagh's impressively hard-carrying forward pack against a well-drilled Campbell defence. Last year's beaten finalists were enjoying plenty of possession and territory in the latter stages of the first half but, with crucial linebreaks continuing to elude them, were forced into poking the ball in behind with the boot.
When Armagh did find themselves nearing the whitewash once again, Campbell had Ben Rainey to thank for keeping the scores level, the openside producing a huge turnover near his own posts.
When the second half began, it was Campbell on the attack but try-scorer Edgar this time was on hand to get over the ball.
That passage aside, though, it was a similar rhythm after the turn, Armagh's forwards racking up big numbers of carries and putting on huge pressure at lineout time when Campbell had opportunities to exit.
When the breakthrough did come, even though full-back Michael Campbell's break played a big part, it was no surprise that it was thanks to the pack.
A first attempt at a rolling maul was halted illegally, resulting in a yellow card for Campbell's John Gildea, but at the second attempt it was lock Ryan Finlay driven over.
Back to a full complement of players, the champions were not to go down without a fight.
Having hit substitute lock Kyle Gill with a high-pressure lineout, Dara Gaskin found an excellent touch with his clearance and Rankin burst through a gap to score.
Having created the first try, he could have made his own life easier by heading for the posts but nailed the conversion regardless to give champions Campbell a late lead.
Armagh would have two late chances to claim victory but both penalty attempts, the latter from between the 10m and halfway line with time already expired, would drift agonisingly off target.
CAMPBELL COLLEGE: C Rankin; D Williamson, R Tinsley (captain), H Owens, F Parks; O Ralston, D Gaskin; J Gildea, J Boal, P McAlpine; C McCauley, J Stinson; J Johnston, B Rainey, T Olaniyan.
Replacements: J Massey, L Collins, M Poor, K Gill, J Brennan, H Bell, K Robertson, H Minford.
ROYAL SCHOOL ARMAGH: M Campbell; B Boyd, N Jennings, C Worth, B Lavery; R Morrow, A Johnston; A Edgar, S Rainey, J Roberts; J Denley, R Finlay; A Woods (captain), J Agnew, P Taylor.
Replacements: J Brown, D Poyntz, N Carville, J Agnew, J King, J McCall, E McAtarsney, C Whiteside.
Referee: Robbie Watson