Watch: Captain McKee delighted as Campbell earn chance to end seven-year Schools' Cup drought
Campbell College 17-8 Methodist College
Campbell College captain John McKee hailed his side's resilience after they put up an impressively resolute performance against Methody to book a place in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final.
While the east-Belfast school played some lovely rugby with ball in hand, especially through their midfield pairing, their defence was especially eye-catching as they held Methody without a try until the closing stages.
"We worked all week because we knew exactly what was coming at us," said McKee, who scored his side's crucial second try. "You know how tough you have to be against a side like Methody and we rode it out well in the end. Our focus was on the physical battle and we're chuffed to come out on top."
"It's a huge weight off your shoulders then you realise you're straight back to work." 😂 Campbell College's try-scoring...Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Under pressure to start, Campbell had to show they were ready for a dogfight in the opening quarter. Methody lost Ulster Under-18 centre Kevin McNaboe to an early injury, but it was the competition's most successful side who looked likely to open the scoring.
A penalty won by Max Lyttle was kicked to the corner and the south-Belfast side held the ball well in the face of determined Campbell defending on the try-line. An excellent scoop off the deck from full-back Ethan McIlroy almost got his side in out wide, but Rex Tinsley covered well and the referee's whistle eventually relieved the pressure.
McIlroy would break the deadlock from the tee only moments later with a penalty midway inside the opposition half but his side would not score again until the very end.
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Given the chance to attack, Campbell showed the influence of former Ulster coach Neil Doak on the side, and a delightful one-handed offload from Ben Power opened things up and brought a penalty in front of the posts for offside. Inside the 22, Conor Rankin made no mistake to knot the score at 3-3.
With half-time approaching, the tide had swung in Campbell's favour and they were in for the first try before the turn. Having worked their way across the 22, the side showed good awareness to recognise the overlap developing on the left side and a swift miss-pass was all it took for Tinsley to get over in the corner. Rankin's conversion would have been impressive from the boot of John Cooney.
Methody looked to quickly strike back when action resumed for the second half, but an excellent tackle from centre Jamie Macartney forced a turnover. And the reward proved to be huge when, with Methody piggy-backing two penalties together, Campbell's forwards came to the fore and ultimately McKee peeled off to muscle his way over. With Rankin's third kick of the day just as well executed as the previous two, it was then Campbell's to lose.
Methody's hopes of an immediate response were quelled when Rankin made a try-saving tackle on the edge of his 22, and when the ball came out his forwards swarmed around to hold up the carrier. Their resistance was eventually broken when scrum-half Matthew Neill wriggled over in the corner but, with a massively difficult conversion, McIlroy couldn't add the extras despite giving the ball an almighty thump across the face of the posts. Methody threw everything into one last attack but the clock was always against them.
Awaiting the winner of Royal School Armagh and RBAI, Campbell will already be dreaming of ending their seven-year wait to bring the trophy back to Fox's Field.
CAMPBELL COLLEGE: C Rankin, W Davis, J Macartney, B Power, R Tinsley, O Yandall, D Gaskin, J McKee, H Jenkins, P McAlpine, O Kiernan, J Harrison, J Stinson, S Robinson, T Olaniyan
REPLACEMENTS: J Gildea, M Carlisle, M Poor, J Johnston, J Brennan, L Yandall, J McAllister, K Robertson
METHODIST COLLEGE: E McIlroy, C Scollan, K McNaboe, J Fletcher, C Larmour, T Armstrong, M Neill D Morelli, D Humphreys, B Crangle, M Lyttle, B Gourley, C Kelly, S Bernard, J Bingham
REPLACEMENTS: P Johnston, T Millar, L Sullivan, A Reid, J Waston, L Lowry, T O'Doherty, R Armstrong