RBAI marched on to the quarterfinals of this season’s Cup with a seventeen-point win over Dalriada on Saturday at Osborne Park; however, despite the score line, the win was far from convincing as Dalriada pushed the Belfast team all the way up to ten minutes before the no-side whistle.

Before kickoff, both teams and their supporters took time to remember Carrickfergus GS pupil Ben Robinson who sadly passed away early last week after sustaining an injury during a Medallion game. The minute silence was well respected by all present and served as a fitting show of sympathy to Ben’s friends and family.

The early exchanges saw a lot of slow build-up and cagey play from either side with supporters becoming afraid that the game would turn into an exercise in conservatism. The opening score finally came when an Inst turnover led to Dalriada being penalised and Matthew McGuigan for RBAI put the ball between the posts for three points.

The home fans anticipated that this would be the start of their team’s momentum and so it seemed to be as RBAI moved further into Dalriada territory; however, a series on injuries on both sides and good Dalriada defence saw the flow become disrupted and lead to a number of errors from the home side. Eventually Dalriada’s good play forced a penalty which Jonny Laughlin duly converted to tie the game at 3-3.

With RBAI’s rhythm broken, Dalriada put on a good display of defence once again, keeping Inst in their own half of the field. The pressure told as the home side, desperate to maintain possession, failed to release the ball and gifted Dalriada another penalty within comfortable range which was converted to see the away take the lead for the first time, 3-6.

Dalriada’s pressure continued into the rest of the half creating the impression that a try would come for them sooner rather than later; however, RBAI’s defence stood firm and managed to regain good field position with a penalty kick into the corner and then scored a subsequent penalty to retie the score at 6-6 and end the first half, although Dalriada were probably much the happier side.

HT: RBAI 6 Dalriada 6

It was clear that strong words had been directed at the home side during half-time as RBAI began the second half with much more fire in their stomachs. Starting from deep in their own half, they pushed Dalriada back down inside their own 22, but Dalriada were once again resolute.

Then came the most important, controversial, and pivotal moment of the game: during Inst’s spell of offensive pressure, the ball broke loose and was turned over, whereupon Dalriada’s Jonny McMullen seized the chance to run downfield, chip a delightful ball to the far left corner, and set up a nail-biting flat-out footrace to the try line. The Dalriada man threw himself over the line and touched the ball down for what seemed to be the first try of the game, but, at the same time, an Instonian defender stretched out his hand to knock the ball away. In what was a very close call, the referee decided there was not enough downward pressure on the ball and that the defender prevented the score.

It was a huge blow to the Dalriada side who had played their hearts out up to this point; but heads dropped, and RBAI, aware that they had just ‘got away with one’, decided that they would start playing as they should have been from the beginning.

A subsequent rolling maul marched Inst 30 yards downfield and saw them awarded another penalty as play broke down. The penalty was converted and RBAI regained the lead 9-6, this time not to relinquish it.

Dalriada started to panic a little now as they realised time was running out. Strong play from the home side saw black and old gold swarm over opposition players in well execute displays of containment and eventually led to the one thing the game was missing – a try.

RBAI forced Dalriada to turnover deep into their own territory and the advantage was taken as the ball was touched down by no.8, Patrick Anderson, in the far left corner. The conversion was successful and is perhaps the best kick that Matty McGuigan will place all season, the ball flying straight and true between the posts from a near impossible angle.

With the score now 16-6 in favour of RBAI, and looking even more unassailable, Dalriada hit self-destruct and lost the ball again with a number of unforced handling errors. Inst took the opportunity to put the result beyond doubt and scored again, this time through substitute Matthew Keane, on the far right with another try which was converted to see the final score read as 23-6 for RBAI.

RBAI: Andrew Browne, Michael Mairs, Connor Neil, Michael Kilpatrick, Ben Alexander, Patrick Bell, Zach Welshman, Patrick Anderson, Matthew Taylor, Matthew McGuigan, Jonny McClure, Kevin McClean, Nathan Dugan, Jonny Martin, Nathan Brown, Andrew Roulston, Matthew Madill, Josh Atkinson, Matthew Keane, Ross Keane

Dalriada: Samuel Kyle, Thomas Proctor, Andrew Marks, David Campbell, Christopher McKee, Andrew Skelton, Matthew Glen, Roger Bonner, Rhys McAuley, Ben Henderson, Ewan Strong, Jonny McLaughlin, Jonny McMullen, Matthew Dunlop, John Laughlin, Christopher Emerson, Andrew Anderson, Timothy Marx, Angus Jinks, Stuart Mulholland, Ryan Bickerstaff, Jack Magee