Clinical Sullivan make Schools' Cup final for first time
Coleraine AI 14 Sullivan Upper 27: Sullivan Upper advanced to their first Danske Bank Schools' Cup final after a 27-14 win over Coleraine Academical Institution at Upper Malone yesterday.
The Holywood school scored tries either side of the break to take control of proceedings and were able to see out the victory despite ending the game with only 13 men.
Following a heated dispute inside the last 10 minutes, Sullivan's Chris Jordan was shown a red card while Josh Davidson was also sent to the sin bin for the game's denouement.
Coleraine Inst too finished the game with reduced numbers as Jake Scott was dismissed by the referee for his part in the incident.
Willie Anderson's side will now play Methody in the final at Ravenhill on March 17 following the south Belfast school's win over Wallace in the first semi-final on Tuesday.
Sullivan had the better of the opening exchanges but could not force home that advantage until the 11th minute of the contest.
The first score came off the back of a Coleraine scrum when Sullivan scrum-half Charlie McEwen – who had almost produced a try moments earlier with an exquisite behind the back pass – harried his opposite number Ryan Gillan into losing possession and applied just enough downward pressure on the ball when it spilled into the in-goal area.
The rolling maul was proving to be a particularly potent weapon and, when Coleraine pulled down a Sullivan advance, Mark Adair's subsequent penalty moved the score to 8-0.
And it looked as if that would be the half-time score only for Sullivan to add another try just before the turn.
Dave Cave – cousin of Ulster's Darren Cave – carried strongly into the opposition 22 and, after several of the pack had been repelled close to the line, it was Mark Crockford who eventually forced his way over.
Adair had no problems adding the extras and Coleraine were now going to need at least three scores in the second half.
After the restart, the game continued in the same vein and it was only five minutes after the resumption of play when Ulster under-19 lock Josh Davidson barged his way over the line to improve his school's commanding position.
However, on a rare visit to the opposition 22, Coleraine Inst earned their first points of the afternoon with a try from Conor Shiels soon after.
A well-executed lineout had Sullivan scrambling but they remained resolute until quick-thinking from Shiels saw him opt for a tap-and-go when awarded a penalty and dart over.
The inside centre converted his own score but once again Coleraine's struggles with the rolling maul would prove their undoing.
When the next score of the game seemed crucial, Coleraine once again illegally halted a Sullivan drive off a lineout, prompting the referee to award a penalty try.
With just under a quarter of an hour remaining, Coleraine did reduce the deficit to 13 points when Mark Gordon – who bagged a hat-trick against Regent House in the third round – produced the most electrifying score of the day after bursting through from inside his own half.
A tip tackle from Sullivan, and the ensuing scuffle, prompted the flurry of cards in the closing stages.
But, despite finishing the game playing with 13 men against Coleraine's 14, no further scores left Willie Anderson and his players still dreaming of a Schools' Cup triumph to go along with the Medallion Shield that many of this squad won back in 2011.