Methody began the defence of their Danske Bank Schools’ Cup title with a 29-0 win over Limavady Grammar and will now face fierce rivals Royal Belfast Academical Institution in the competition’s quarter-finals.
Ireland under-19 international Connor McKee scored a hat-trick for the hosts but their margin of victory was harsh on a Limavady Grammar side who had the better of proceedings in the first-half.
Indeed following the victory, Methody coach Nicky Wells was full of praise for his beaten opponents.
He said: “Huge credit to Limavady, they came here with a well-drilled pack, and weren’t going to lie down for anybody.
“They weren’t intimidated by the occasion or the situation so full credit to them.
“They had a big win behind them and had us pinned down in our own 22 quite a bit early on.
“We showed a lot of character to weather that though and you need to remember that these are still young men.
“They could have started to panic but they didn’t and when we turned around 5-0 up with the wind behind us we were able then to just take control of the thing.
“Defense can win matches and I think both teams had to play to the conditions which were appalling unfortunately earlier on.
“There was a wee blip towards the end but I think we were good value for the win.”
Wells’ Limavady Grammar counterpart Stephen Barr was suitably proud of his side but was disappointed that they had not managed to translate their strong first-half showing into points on the scoreboard.
He reflected: “The result maybe flattered them a wee bit and I think we can still be proud.
“I suppose it was hard justice but when you step up to this level you have to take your chances.
“We had ample opportunities in the first half and we just didn’t keep control of our emotions.
“We went as individuals when had we went as a team we maybe could have got over and those points would have given Methody something to think about.
“We knew we were the unlucky ones who got the bad draw but I think we showed out there that it takes a good team to beat us.”
The game began with Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe on the sidelines, watching the school that produced current provincial stars such as Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy, but it was the visitors that will have impressed him in the opening quarter.
There was strong work in defence from Michael Rice, a mature kicking game from out-half Scott McClean and loose forward Sam Mackey was the most effective player on the pitch.
All that was missing, however, was points and despite marching deep inside the Methody 22 on numerous occasions they could not make the final push over the line.
Such profligacy rarely goes unpunished by the likes of Methody in this competition and that once again proved to be the case with half an hour played.
A rolling maul off a line-out appeared to have created an opening for the hosts but hooker Steven Weir was adjudged to have knocked on just before the line. While Limavady were able to temporarily clear the danger with a kick to touch, the Methody maul proved equally effective at the next line-out and after the pack drove towards the line, the ball was worked to McKee who broke through for his first score of the day.
Methody carried that momentum into the second-half and dominated proceedings after the turn.
Only two minutes had elapsed after the restart when McKee scored his second of the day, jinking around tacklers impressively and using the overlap of Wolfe Diamond as a decoy on his way to the line. And he completed the hat-trick after 45 minutes when a strong Methody scrum drove towards the posts.
The ball was gathered by scrum-half Frazer Wallace who produced a sumptuous offload his outside centre, McKee dragging tacklers over the line to finish the move.
The pack were rewarded for their increasing dominance with a quarter of an hour remaining as they rumbled their way over the line following another well-executed maul and Gareth Millar’s conversion made it 24-0.
Limavady responded with their best period of the half, the pressure leading to a yellow card for Weir, but once again Methody’s defence proved strong.
And the game would end with a final try for the victors after Connor Kelly’s run created the space for Diamond to go over in the corner.