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Inst win is a kick in the teeth for Braid


By Russell Pritchard

Ballymena suffered heartache yesterday afternoon after failing with a last-gasp kick needed to secure a draw, but Inst held on for a deserved Danske Bank Medallion Shield win at Queen's.

This was their first triumph since 2008 and it brought their total of successes to 33, two in arrears of Methodist College.

The final result turned out to be much closer than expected with the two best Medallion teams in the Province facing each other at Upper Malone.

Inst started favourites by virtue of their unbeaten Ulster record, although they did suffer a blip earlier in the campaign in the last minute at Dublin's Belvedere College.

There was little between the teams when they met before Christmas and on this occasion it was Ballymena who took the lead after five minutes against the run of play.

Winger Conor Barkley ran around his opposite number for an unconverted try. Inst resumed their attacks and the opposition had to defend stoutly with Alexander Clarke, Azur Allyson and Joel Gocher putting in a lot of hard graft to keep them out.

Just before the interval, the pressure told when a sustained team effort led to flanker Charlie Cloke going in at the far left.

The Belfast team continued to have the edge after the restart with loose head Callum Reid carrying well, Michael Lowry at out-half strong in attack and defence and full-back Joseph Finnegan causing problems.

After a number of phases it was Lowry who cut through and Sam Fryars added the conversion to make it 12-5. Full credit to Ballymena, who never gave up and threw everything at their opponents in the last 10 minutes.

They were awarded a couple of penalties but three points were of little use late on, so they kept their composure and fully warranted a try in the dying minute. It came when scrum-half Michael Strong nipped over five metres in from touch.

Conor Agnew, who had earlier shown his defensive qualities, was called on to take the conversion. However, he agonisingly missed.

Inst coach Gavin Monteith said: "I think we were the better side for the vast majority of the tie, although Ballymena came back in the final quarter.

"We dominated the possession for probably two thirds of the game, our discipline was excellent and the work rate brilliant. We put them under a lot of pressure but they coped very well and could well have levelled.

"It has been a very successful season and let's hope the squad will continue to improve until it's their turn in a couple of years to contest the Schools' Cup."

Gavin Murray, one of the Ballymena coaches, thought Inst just about deserved the win. "They were good at running off their half- backs and they had a couple of formidable centres. Our boys did well, defending strongly," he said.

"That might have been because we tried to keep moving the ball rather than kicking."

Ballymena Academy: Joel Gocher, Tim Savory, David Stevenson, Ryan Malcolm, Chris McLeister, Oisin Jordan, Azur Allyson, Alex Clarke, Michael Strong, Angus Kernaghan, Conor Barkley, Conor Agnew, Alan Small, Ciernan Martin, Conor Gallagher, Replacement Scott Agnew

RBAI: Calum Reid, Neil Salters, Dermott Wallace, Andrew Knape, Ethan Reid, Charlie Cloke, Paddy Finnegan, Omar Yasser, Rhys O'Donnell, Michael Lowry, Matthew Cuthbertson, Mark Rowney, James Home, Sam Fryars, Joseph Finnegan Replacements - Matthew Nelson, Brian Glover, Pearce McLernan, Robbie Marrs, Conor Lamont, Adam Gundy, Fraser Laughlin, Zachary Davidson

Referee: Richard Kerr

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