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BRA snatch cup victory in dramatic comeback

By Ian Callender

Belfast Royal Academy won the Ulster Bank Schools Cup for the first time with a thrilling comeback victory against Campbell College.

Francis Collins was the hero, batting through the innings for 73 not out, hitting the winning run with just three balls to spare. At 56 for six it looked a most unlikely outcome but anything Campbell could do, on the day BRA did it better.

Put into bat, Campbell were reduced to 74 for seven but Matthew Hamill and Adam McCormick almost doubled the score in an unbroken stand to leave Academy a victory target of 147.

But Collins, first with Samuel Osborne (28 from 27 balls) put on 62 for the seventh wicket and then with Conor Boyd, who hit a cool unbeaten 14 from No 9, finished it off to spark undiluted delight from a huge school following as north Belfast took over Osborne Park.

When skipper Andrew Forbes received the cup from NCU vice-president Peter McMorran the roar could probably be heard on the Cliftonville Road.

It was at times, a tetchy final - hardly surprising as the aggregate record for the two schools in past cup finals was played three, lost three - with the umpires frequently having to speak with the respective captains in an old-style schoolmasterly fashion. There was even a "was it a four or not a four" question in the nervous closing stages with Jonathan Kennedy going all the way to the boundary to get a neutral opinion on whether the ball had crossed the rope. But, in the end, cricket won the day.

David McLarnon made the early impact for BRA, claiming the big wickets of Civil Service North pair Paddy Beverland and Paddy Park as Campbell collapsed from 59 for one at the halfway drinks break to 74 for seven just 22 balls later. Then came Hamill and McCormick.

Campbell had the momentum at the interval and their bowlers maintained it with a six-wicket burst in the first 17 overs with Ryan Wightman and Beverland each taking two wickets and Paddy Telford claiming the prize scalp of Forbes.

But Collins, crucially, was still there and at the fall of the sixth wicket he decided it was time to change gear. He hit the first six of the day and a four in the same over off Telford although at the end he had hit only six other boundaries.

But, as the ones and twos were nudged into the gaps, the 'big overs' - at least eight runs off every one from 21 to 27 - followed one after the other.

It could even be said that BRA won easing up, but that would detract from a thrilling final.

e Ireland Under-19s claimed a six wickets victory over MCC as they continued their countdown to next month's World Cup qualifying tournament in Jersey.

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