Coach Dan Soper was delighted to lead RBAI to their first Schools’ Cup victory in eight years as they edged out Wallace 14-10 in an entertaining final at the Kingspan Stadium.
Inst’s last victory in the competition also came against the Lisburn School in 2007, and it needed a superb solo try by winger Jack Conlin to settle the contest and give RBAI their 30th outright win.
“We’re relieved and I guess that was a good finish for the neutral with Wallace hammering the line,” Soper said.
“There is plenty of satisfaction that we got things right that we planned and did our homework that got us the win.”
Inst dominated early on but couldn’t turn pressure into points and Wallace took the lead.
“We talked about that. In the Schools’ Cup the first quarter goes pretty quickly.We talked about getting position on the park and taking the points if they were on offer unfortunately TJ (Morris) missed the first couple and I thought we were going to have a repeat of how we went out of the cup last year when we missed a few goals,” Soper added.
“But credit to the lads, they rallied and hung in there and had belief in what they were doing.
“We knew Wallace were capable of scoring a try like they did and I guess we were fortunate that their scores were wide out cause it made the last five minutes where they we chasing a try and not a penalty and that made it a different ball game.”
Inst led 7-5 at the break after a converted try from captain Lewis McNamara.
“Physiologically it was huge because we had the pressure in the first quarter of the match and then they came up and scored with the first chance they got, and it would have been easy for us to start to get a few doubts. But the guys rallied and it was a lineout steal that led to the score.
“Our lineout defence was first class and didn’t give them much of a platform to get their maul going, and credit to Richie Headley for what he has done.”
Wallace reclaimed the lead but Inst hit back with what proved to be the decisive try from Conlin.
“That is a play we have and sometimes you try it and it doesn’t come off, but again it was an excellent lineout and maul platform and a nice pass from TJ,” Soper said.
“Jack has been an outstanding finisher for us all season and the way he took that was first class.”
Wallace kept kicking to the corner in the closing stages but couldn’t force a winning score.
“They needed five points and their catch and drive and maul has been exceptional all year and they just needed to get one right,” Soper added.
“We just needed to get one wrong and that could have been the difference but fortunately for us the boys stayed pretty focused and we were able to keep defending.
“Our defence has been pretty good all year and they are the first two tries we have conceded in the cup and two tries is the most we have conceded in any game this year.
“Defence defines this team and this squad has a huge amount of character, they don’t miss many tackles and they keep working hard and when you get to this stage of the competition you have got to be able to defend.”
Wallace coach Derek Suffern admitted his side weren’t clinical enough when it mattered to win the game.
“In the second half we felt we dominated field position, we had a lot of position but just certain facets of our game didn’t function,” he said.
“On reflection we didn’t deserve to win the game because we weren’t able to take those chances in the second half,” said Suffern.
“Maybe we could have kicked a couple of goals instead of going for the lineout or maybe we could have went for a tap and go.
“The guys backed themselves to win that one close to the line but unfortunately it didn’t go for us. Inst, to be fair to them, competed really well. We played them earlier in the year and they wouldn’t have troubled us that much at the lineout.
“Obviously they had done their homework and fair play to them they competed all over the park against us and put us under a lot of pressure and that was potential the difference in the game.
“It will be tough for my players to deal with for a while but they just have to stick together and I’m proud of their efforts but unfortunately we didn’t deserve to win the game and they have got to live with it.”
Wallace dominated at the scrum but Suffern was disappointed with the lineout.
“Our scrum has been one of our strengths and our lineout had been functioning well up to the semi and final unfortunately it wasn’t our day.
“At the lineout we didn’t win enough ball and we didn’t put them under enough pressure in the right areas of the pitch even though we had a lot of the territory dominance in the second half.”.
RBAI: A McGregor, J Finnegan, C McLaughlin, J Hume, J Conlin, M Lowry, TJ Morris, J Chambers, R McComiskey, J Dickson, G Bell, C Wallace, L McNamara (capt), E Harbinson, M Mairs
Replacements: C Reid, N Saulters, D Wallace, A Thompson, P Douglas, M Young, P Dolgahan, B McGavock
WALLACE HS: P Hylands, C Guiney, A Cardosi, R Wilson, B Finlay, N Kilpatrick, J Stewart, J Blair, B Pentland, A Weir, P Ferguson, G Malley, S Moore (capt), A Irvine, M Trouton
Replacements: M Smyth, G Dillon, N Woods, T Baird, Gary Chan, A Heaps, I Nzewi, A Black
Referee: Mark Patton