Wallace pounce late to deny Methody another Schools' Cup final
Methody 10-12 Wallace HS
Wallace will meet RBAI in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final on St Patrick's Day after overcoming Methody at the Kingspan Stadium yesterday afternoon.
In a semi-final full of tension, Methody held a 10-7 lead for much of the second half only for a late Ben Finlay try to send Derek Suffern's side on their way to victory.
Even after Finlay's late touchdown, Methody would still have one chance to seal their place in the showpiece for a fourth year in succession thanks to a last-gasp penalty but, from an almighty distance, Robert Lyttle's strong effort tailed agonisingly wide.
For Wallace, they now have a chance to win their first ever Schools' Cup, and avenge final losses to Belfast Inst in 2003 and 2007, but Methody's run of consecutive titles ends at three.
The first scoring opportunity of the contest went to Wallace but Andrew Cardosi could not land a penalty from the Methody 10m line.
The Lisburn school would not have to wait long for the breakthrough however and a converted try came after 10 minutes.
A scrum from deep inside their own half did not appear to be threatening, but out-half Neil Kilpatrick led a blistering break upfield before releasing Phillip Hylands.
The fullback had Finlay in support but, with only Conor Kelly to beat, he stepped inside the wing and left Cardosi with a straightforward conversion.
A lineout deep in Wallace territory gave Methody the chance for a quick response and the forwards drove their way over for captain Saul Herdman to score.
The testing conversion from the corner was missed however and Wallace held a narrow advantage.
That would last until the 25th minute when Nick Wells' forwards again flexed their muscles.
Wallace had a lineout stolen by Ryan Cullen and Methody drove from 10m line to 10m line.
When the ball was spread wide, scrum-half Johnny Jordan broke free and released Kelly on the left wing.
Despite the close attentions of Hylands, the Methody man was able to fight his way over in the corner and, although the conversion was again off target, they now led 10-7.
Wallace had plenty of room to play in the 10 minutes before the interval but a pair of handling errors saw them come away with no further points.
Using the spacious confines of the Kingspan, both teams attempted expansive rugby in the backlines but, a quarter of an hour after the turn, neither had added to their half-time tally.
With just under 20 minutes to play, a scintillating break from Lyttle looked set to move Methody further ahead but the fullback was just forced into touch by the tackle of his opposite number Hylands in a moment that would later prove critical.
Methody were still camped in the Wallace half but, when the defending side had a line-out just outside of their own 22, No 8 Max Trouton peeled off the back of the subsequent rolling maul to gain some territory.
Good work on the deck from Methody brought a penalty which would end that attack but Wallace remained dangerous.
As the game entered its final five minutes, the crucial score arrived as substitute wing Gary Chan broke through a couple of tackles and found Finlay in space.
The wing still had plenty to do but he was able to produce a strong hand-off to work his way past the covering Lyttle and go over in the corner.
Cardosi couldn't add the extras from a testing position but his side held a two-point lead.
There was to be yet more late drama when Methody opted to go for the posts from distance in the final seconds but the players were left to watch on as the attempt sailed off course.
Methodist College: Robert Lyttle; Josh Jordan, Lewis Loane, Alistair McIvor, Conor Kelly; Gareth Millar, Johnny Jordan; Ben O'Reilly, Saul Herdman (captain), Alex McAllister, Ryan Cullen, Scott McClelland, Matthew McKinney, Dan Coulter, Zac Jordan; Replacements: Oliver Cairns, Aaron Kilpatrick, Conor Gourley, Cameron Kelly, Joe Kennedy, Danny Gray, Paul Kerr, Louis Trainor.
Wallace High School: Philip Hylands; Connor Guiney, Andrew Cardosi, Ryan Wilson, Ben Finlay; Neil Kilpatrick, Jonny Stewart; Jonathan Blair, Ben Pentland, Andrew Weir, Patrick Ferguson, Gary Dillon, Sam Moore (captain), Andrew Irvine, Max Trouton, Michael Smyth, Graham Malley, Nicholas Woods, Gary Chan, Tom Baird, Adam Black, Ikenna Nzewi, Adam Heaps.
Wallace pounce late to deny Methody another Schools' Cup final 5,000 join in Belfast Kingspan roar to welcome Ireland's rugby elite