Coleraine Academical Institution squeezed into the Schools Cup semi finals by the narrowest of margins, beating Ballyclare High 10 – 9 in a hard fought encounter at Coleraine.
I’d expected a more comfortable win for the home side, who are riding high in fourth place in the FRU Schools Rankings, but they were met by a determined Ballyclare side who competed ferociously at the break down.
It was a cagey enough start from both sides with defences dominating and play taking part in the middle of the field.
Ballyclare broke the deadlock with a penalty on the 10 minute mark but the hosts hit back almost immediately with a well worked try on the left wing pushing Coleraine into a 5 – 3 lead.
Despite having success out wide the home side seemed fixated with trying to punch the ball up the middle through their big pack but they were more than matched by the aggressive High School defence and with the match descending into an arm wrestle it was the East Antrim side that began to get on top.
The visitors tenacity led to two more penalties and a 5 – 9 lead at the break.
To their credit, Coleraine managed to raise their game and pretty much dominated the second half, though they were often thwarted by the hard working Ballyclare defence.
However, the pressure eventually told and with 20 minutes to go the Coleraine pack found their way to the line for their second score, reclaiming the lead at 10 – 9 and they looked to be well on top.
I expected CAI to pull away but, after a lengthy injury break, it was the visitors that started to get on top, forcing a couple of penalties that they were unable to convert. Coleraine held their nerve and the lead to sneak this one by the narrowest of margins.
Final Score: Coleraine Academical Institution 10 Ballyclare High School 9