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Queen's University upset the odds to clinch Ulster Senior Cup glory

By Michael Sadlier

Queen's University defied most pre-match expectations to deservedly see off Ballynahinch and lift the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup for the 23rd time after a dramatic finish at Ravenhill last night.

With the game in the red zone and Hinch camped right on the Queen's line, the students threw everything into keeping the Division 1A side out and even with centre Chris Colvin in the bin they somehow managed to hold on to secure the cup in their 40th final.

The students – who play their AIL rugby two divisions below Hinch – were able to not only match and then better Hinch's extra physicality up front, but they also had far more commitment in defence.

First half tries from Stuart McIlwaine and Michael McCauley – both created by the excellent Damon Hall – along with two penalties in the second-half from Ritchie McMaster, who on the night only kicked two from eight attempts, got Queen's home.

Hinch will look at themselves and wonder at how poorly they played after grabbing first-half tries from wingers Aaron Ferris and Matthew Arneill and then failing to score again in the second-half, though having Neil Faloon and Harry McAleese sin-binned in either half hardly helped them.

Queen's – playing into the early swirling wind – made a bright enough start but Ritchie McMaster's first shot at goal, after two minutes, fell short.

Hinch then had number eight Neil Faloon sin-binned for a late shoulder charge on Conor Spence after the students' scrum half had taken a quick tap penalty.

Hinch's momentum continued and Ferris made no mistake in the 17th minute to this time make it over in the left corner though Richie Lobb was wide with the difficult conversion.

But the students showed how dangerous they can be with the ball in hand when four minutes later full-back Hall glided between two Hinch defenders and his pass put skipper Stuart McIlwaine away to score. However, McMaster again couldn't bisect the posts and the scores were tied at 5-5.

Hinch, though immediately hit back with winger Matthew Arneill getting over after some slick handling along the backline.

Now leading 10-5, Hinch looked to push on but again the students hit back and after they ran a penalty near the Co Down side's posts, it was Hall again who made the breakthrough and after wriggling through the ball was quickly recycled for winger Michael McAuley to dive over.

Yet again, though, McMaster couldn't nail the touchline conversion and the sides were tied again this time at 10-10 which is how it ended after 40 minutes.

The Students kept up the pressure and at the sixth time of asking – in the 56th minute – McMaster put the ball between the sticks to put Queen's 13-10 up and give them the lead for the first time.

Things then further deteriorated for Hinch when out-half Harry McAleese was shown yellow for not rolling away and four minutes later, after a period of Queen's pressure, McMaster slotted his second penalty to give the students a six point lead.

Indeed, the Students had another great chance to stretch their lead but McMaster was unable to hit the target and it looked like Hinch might steal it right at the very end but they just couldn't find enough to cross the whitewash.

BALLYNAHINCH: R Lobb, M Arneill, S Morrow (capt), R Harte, A Ferris, H McAleese, A Cairns; M Crommie, A Harper, C Taylor, J Madden, J Gunson, D Gallagher, P Pritchard, N Faloon

Subs: J Grattan for A Ferris 39mins; C Stevenson for C Taylor 69mins

Queen's University: D Hall, E Devlin, C Colvin, S McIlwaine (capt), M McAuley, R McMaster, C Spence; B Howard, A Kerr, J Craig, R Whitten, G Bartley, S Hooks, M Clarke, R Clarke

M Simpson for G Bartley 45 mins; P Farrell for C Spence 63mins

Referee: M Patton

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