Inst history boys secure hat-trick
RBAI 12 Methody 8
Making history against their oldest rivals, things couldn't have been any sweeter for RBAI on St Patrick's Day as they fought their way to a third consecutive Danske Bank Schools' Cup with a 12-8 win over Methody.
For all their success in the competition, and yesterday represented a 32nd outright title, not since the 1940s had Inst strung together three-in-a-row with the core of their side having been involved in each win.
As in the past two seasons, it was a close run affair though, with a pair of early tries all they could muster while Methody played much of the second half in the ascendancy.
Indeed if not for a try-saving tackle in the corner from inspirational skipper Michael Lowry, who injured himself in the process, the ribbons on the famous old trophy could have been blue and white.
When the two powerhouses, playfully called the Old Firm by players in a nod to the intense rivalry, won their semi-finals last month, it ensured that their duopoly would extend to a sixth straight year, with many believing RBAI would have things their own way once again.
But with Methody's back-row making an early impression it was clear that things wouldn't be quite so straightforward.
But a good take from David McCann set Inst's forwards up for their first real rumble and things were looking ominous for Methody as they drove forward.
With the underdogs having spoiled Inst's ball well in the early going, scrum-half Rhys O'Donnell had been forced to dig for possession early on but was rewarded for his persistence as he went himself from the goal-line breakdown, utilising a fine dummy to create a moment's hesitation.
Hume's fine sideline conversion made it 7-0 and the second score wasn't long coming.
For all the talk of Inst's threatening backline, set-piece efficiency was in full effect as McCann peeled off his fellow forwards to barge over.
As Methody pressed for an immediate response, they were undone by Lowry (left with Rhys O'Donnell).
The captain, in his third final, may be diminutive but had the power to fight for the loose ball, saving a try when a penalty relieved the pressure.
Methody would get the crucial next score though, also coming from a maul. Jonah Bingham claimed the dart from touch with No.8 Thomas Gallagher looking set to go over but for a last-ditch tackle.
While a number of forwards made a push for the line, Methody kept their composure well to recognise the space outside and work wing Chris Larmour over in the corner.
The conversion drifted off target and 12-5 was how it stayed until the turn.
Inst looked set to regather the momentum when Paul Kerr was binned six minutes after the restart for a high tackle, but Hume soon followed him to the sidelines for a similar offence.
And Methody then looked set for their second in the corner only for Lowry to deny Larmour a brace with a great tackle in the corner.
Sadly it would be Lowry's last action as he was forced off despite lengthy treatment.
Kerr reduced the arrears with a penalty but, even without their captain, Inst held firm. A tense finish was ensured when they couldn't score off a scrum in the opposing 22 but, try as they might, Methody couldn't launch a last assault.
The trophy was staying just where it was.
RBAI: J Finnegan; Z Davidson, J Hume, D Lyttle, N Armstrong; M Lowry (capt), R O'Donnell; C Reid, N Saulters, M Nelson; D Wallace, D McCann; P Finnegan, C Cloke, Y Omar
REPLACEMENTS: C McCormick, P McLernon, E SLoan, B Gribben, E Field, A Adair, R McIlveen, S Fryers
METHODIST COLLEGE: K Doherty; E McIlroy, J McConnell, P Kerr, C Larmour; T Armstrong, J Jordan; D Morelli, J Trainor, B Crangle; J Bingham, H Gibbons; C Kelly, M Loane (capt), T Gallagher
REPLACEMENTS: C Conn, E Gentry, C Fletcher, K McNaboe, C Kelly, M Neill, L Millar, L Lowry