Ruthless RBAI show their class to lift Schools' crown
RBAI made up for last year's disappointment in the Ulster Bank Schools' Cup final with one of the quickest and most emphatic victories ever in the annual showpiece.
Beaten last year by Belfast Royal Academy, they were a class apart from Wallace High at Moylena yesterday, dismissing the Lisburn school for 43 and they needed only 51 balls to knock off the runs for the loss of just one wicket.
The player of the match was David Robinson, one of the quartet who ended up with a loser's medal 12 months ago, but figures of eight overs, five maidens, four wickets for nine runs ensured he and his team-mates would be back on the winning side.
His twin brother Chris, who has led the team on their victorious run as stand-in for the injured Andrew Knape, took over where his sibling left off, finishing with the equally remarkable figures of 4-3-4-3 as the Wallace middle and lower order were outclassed on the day.
Sam Cardosi at least had the satisfaction of taking the wicket of his former school-mate Jonny Waite but by then RBAI were just four runs from victory and Ben Rose, son of Northern Knights manager Andrew, had the much greater satisfaction of hitting the winning runs.
The Wallace players, though, will always be able to say they played in the final, the school's first appearance since 2005 when they bowled out their city rivals, Friends' School, for 42 - so that is still the lowest total in a final and one record they avoided.
The last seven batsmen recording ducks, however, is one they may have to hang on to for a few years. They were actually 31 for one in the 12th over, a solid if unspectacular start, and although they lost Nathan Doak in the fifth over, captain Johnny Hunter and Josh Cardosi had survived - though not always comfortable outside their off stump against the metronomic David Robinson.
But first Cardosi, trapped in front by Bradley McNamara, and then, two balls later, Hunter got an edge to the keeper, off Robinson, and it all went pear-shaped for the Lisburn school.
Next ball, Sam Cardosi was trapped leg before and Robinson's hat-trick attempt was so close that umpire Ian Houston had to indicate that it was just going down leg side.
Robinson did get James Hamilton's wicket with his final delivery, one that actually broke the middle stump and also broke Wallace's resistance.
Only one of the remaining 11 runs came off the bat - the rest were wides and a leg bye - as Wallace were dismissed by the end of the 23rd of their scheduled 40 overs.
Skipper Hunter's 20, including the only three boundaries, accounted for 28 of the runs off the bat as his team-mates, so determined to enjoy the day after taking the big scalp of Foyle College in the semi-final, apparently froze on the big occasion.
That, however, would be unfair on this Inst bowling attack who had shown their skills in the semi-final - they bowled out Friends' that day for just 17. Once again their relentless accuracy was just too much for their Lisburn opponents.
After only a 10-minute break, the batsmen were out to finish the job in double-quick style.
A six - and a lost ball - by Waite took them halfway to their victory target in the fourth over and when Rose hit his second boundary in the next over, they looked to be on course for a 10-wicket win.
But, unlike Wallace's triumph 12 years ago, it was not to be with Waite skying Cardosi to cover and giving Matthew Lightbody, another of the survivors from last year, the chance to have a second innings in the final.
Chris Robinson received the cup to the acclaim of the usual large crowd at Moylena - although some of them didn't see a lot of action which was the major disappointment of the day.
But RBAI, unbeaten in all competitions since April, have proved again what a class act they are and, ominously for the rest, the majority of the team will be back next year to defend it.