Watch: Captain hails 'dogged country boys' as Armagh oust holders RBAI from Schools' Cup
RBAI 22-26 RS Armagh
What a game.
It went right to the wire and, in a pulsating semi-final, Royal School Armagh resisted holders Royal Belfast Academical Institutions' late surge to reach their first Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup final since 2004.
As captain Jack Treanor explained it, "We've got a bit of doggedness, us country boys. We won't let them by us."
Watch his reaction to the win here:
Royal School Armagh Rugby captain Jack Treanor could be lifting the Schools' Cup come March 19. Here's his reaction to...Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Wednesday, March 7, 2018
In a seven-try thriller, which Inst thought they had stolen at the death only to be adjudged to having been held up over the line, the Royal School derailed the Belfast side's bid to make a fourth consecutive final and potentially claim the same number of trophy successes.
Armagh go on to meet Campbell College on March 19 in a re-run of that 2004 shoot-out which Armagh won - with coach and former Ulster player Willie Faloon then in the side - when John McCall lifted the trophy shortly before his untimely death.
Armagh - with number eight Ryan O'Neill and centre Matthew Reaney outstanding - did make it hard for themselves after leading 14-0 with only 18 minutes on the clock and then seeing that margin cut to 14-10 by half-time by an Inst side determined not to fold.
And, again, after Armagh had pushed on to lead 21-10 soon after the restart, Inst once more battled back with Armagh winger Nicholas Jennings' 57th minute try just proving too much for the Belfast school to ultimately overhaul in a game which Dan Soper's side never managed to lead.
"We said earlier on this season that we'd like to get to the final and thankfully we've got another day out," said a relieved Faloon (celebrating below right).
"I think I was probably more emotional there than when I actually won it as I think it all breezed over me that day.
"It's fantastic for the boys, they deserve it, they've done all the work and I'm just so happy for them, and the real emotion (I have) is for them."
Royal School raced into a 14-0 lead after early tries from centre Reaney and hooker and captain Jack Treanor.
But Inst, with Robin McIlveen shining, came back strongly in both halves to really make a game of it and even managed to hold Armagh up over the line on three occasions.
Though centre Zac Thompson was wide with an early long-range penalty effort, Armagh kept the pressure up and, after 12 minutes, Reaney raced through to score after Armagh had secured lineout ball and launched their inside centre. Thompson's conversion made it 7-0.
Armagh, whose hard-carrying forwards had an edge, got their second after 18 minutes. This time they moved it from a lineout maul after putting a penalty into the corner.
Scrum-half Charlie Worth made an initial dart and, after Reaney again made ground, Treanor wriggled through two tacklers to score. Thompson again converted and Armagh were 14-0 to the good.
Inst finally got some points on the board through McIlveen's 24th minute penalty.
They came again on the half hour. After losing a lineout on the Armagh line and being forced back into their own half, Armstrong put in a marvellous kick which rolled into touch near the corner flag.
Inst managed to steal the throw and then opted for a scrum from a resulting penalty.
From the set-piece, Armstrong picked and easily raced through some poor cover tackling to touchdown under the posts.
McIlveen's conversion narrowed Armagh's lead to 14-10, which is how the half ended.
Armagh started the new half in determined mood with O'Neill surging forward from the off and they managed to work Jennings over in the left corner only for Treanor's floated pass to allow the Inst cover time to get under the Armagh player with Armstrong preventing the score.
Armagh were held up again when sub prop Archie McAlpine was stopped over the line by Connor McCormick but Inst couldn't hold out the third time of asking.
O'Neill picked up from the five metre scrum and raced over with Thompson's conversion of his 42nd minute try putting Armagh 21-10 in front.
Then, on 49 minutes, Inst produced a dazzling move to get their second try.
They attacked right and then swung left with McIlveen's break nearly seeing him reach the line before a quick recycle allowed winger Jude Postlethwaite just make it at the corner flag.
McIlveen couldn't add the difficult extras, but Inst were back in the game.
Armagh then lost skipper Treanor to injury - Inst's captain David McCann had departed early in the first half with a hand issue - but the Royal School still took the game up to Inst's line again and, after Jack Chapman was held up, O'Neill again burst clear off the back of a five-metre scrum and, when Armagh moved the ball left after a couple of phases, Jennings made the line in the 57th minute with Thompson unable to convert.
Now 26-15 down, Inst needed another urgent response. They got one too, when McCormick wriggled his way through with McIlveen adding on the two points to cut Armagh's lead to 26-22 with just five minutes left.
The closing stages were all about Inst's admirable retention of the ball but Armagh impressively managed to hold on - though only just in a breathless finish.
RBAI: B McNamara, J Mullan, R McIlveen, A Adair, J Postlethwaite, D Lyttle, N Armstrong; E Sloan, C McCormick, J Wait, D Eakin, T Lyons, AJ Hussell, J Magee, D McCann (capt)
Subs: R Adair, R Curry, S McAuley, T Lavery, A Weir, M Manso, K McComiskey, J Heyburn
Royal School Armagh: M Campbell, O Webb, Z Thompson, M Reaney, N Jennings, R Morrow, C Worth; J Chapman, J Treanor (capt), J Agnew, R Finlay, S King, A Woods, G Crawford, R O'Neill
Subs: S Rainey, A Edgar, A McAlpine, J Roberts, J King, A Johnston, C Whiteside, P Taylor
Referee: D Carson