Methody determined to end barren run after sealing Schools' Cup final spot
Methody 19-3 Wallace High
Methodist College booked their place in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final for the 64th time thanks to a 19-3 win over Wallace High at Kingspan Stadium yesterday afternoon.
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Overwhelming favourites to regain the trophy they last won in 2014, they were made to work hard for the win by Wallace, who were within two points late on, but two converted scores in the latter stages made sure of their victory.
Wallace have never won this competition but their players are no strangers to Kingspan Stadium, with many of them having featured in the Medallion Shield final of 2016. Their only points of the day, though, came from a solitary penalty from impressive scrum-half Nathan Doak. In the end, Methody's quality told with a brace from Adam Reid setting the platform.
With Campbell College having defeated Royal School Armagh in Tuesday's first semi-final, it will be an all-Belfast decider back at Kingspan Stadium in 11 days' time.
Two-try hero Reid recalled: "We played (Campbell) in November and it was a tight game before we got the win in the end.
"It'll be a good game and I'm sure they'll come out all guns blazing.
"It's been a long time for ourselves. I was in first year when we last won it. Since then, we've not made it.
"I watched us lose a final two years ago, so to be back there with a chance to win it, that's what we all want and what we've worked for."
On his own contribution to the cause, the flanker was modest.
"I don't tend to score many, certainly not two in a game, but when I do, they're usually like that, always from two metres out," he joked.
While the game began with Methody on the front foot, Wallace will have taken heart from their early defensive stand.
Scrum-half Doak's clearing kick was the only touch the Lisburn school had in the game's first four minutes but, despite a number of penalties given up, they held firm to force a knock-on from five metres out.
The competition's most successful side looked capable of being devastating in attack when everything clicked but early passages were broken up with low-percentage offloads not going to hand.
The commitment to fast-paced rugby remained though, and it almost paid off when a swift interchange saw Tom O'Doherty speed down the wing but Wallace got back well and Doak stole the attempted offload.
A rampaging run from tight-head Ted Linton was another highlight, while a nice switch play almost created a linebreak for the Wallace underdogs.
When the breakthrough finally came, it was with the last action of the first half.
Not for the first time, Chris Larmour showed great pace and the ability to bounce a few tackles on the outside, with Wallace hauling him down just short of the line. The forwards did the rest, with Reid applying the muscular finish to bury himself under a pile of bodies.
Wallace survived an early scare in the second half with Doak receiving lengthy treatment but their star man was fit to continue.
A largely disjointed quarter of an hour sparked into life when Ben Carson intercepted a pass between his opposing centres and advanced deep into Methody territory.
While he couldn't quite win the footrace for the line, Methody were pinged for not rolling away and Doak got his side on the board from the resulting penalty.
With under 20 minutes to go, there were just two points in it. That seemed set to change almost instantly but, right on his own line, Kyle Patton came away with the ball when Methody looked certain to score.
They wouldn't have to wait long for their second. With the clearing kick from Wallace having sent Methody out only to the edge of the 22, they were in sight of the posts again when a Wallace knock-on gave them an attacking scrum in a good position.
Captain Kevin McNaboe burst off the base and looked set to score only to be hauled down by opposite number and opposing skipper Reuben Crothers.
Reid, though, was on hand to apply the finish again, his second of the game coming from similar distance to his first.
When Ethan McIlroy confidently knocked over the conversion, it was a two-score game with only 10 minutes to go.
And the result was put beyond doubt soon after.
Again attacking off the scrum, although this time from their own 22 rather than the opposition's, Nicky Wells' side found a way to ally accuracy to their attacking endeavour as they produced the move of the match.
It was John Fletcher who found himself in space and, with McIlroy on his outside shoulder, the centre timed his pass well, even if it got a slight touch from a Wallace hand.
Once McIlroy gathered there was no stopping him, with the Ireland Under-19 full-back converting his own score.
"The Schools' Cup is coming home," cheered the Methody faithful.
Old rivals Campbell on the day after St Patrick's Day are the only side left in their way.
METHODIST COLLEGE: E McIlroy; T O'Doherty, R Armstrong, J Fletcher, C Larmour; T Armstrong, C Davidson; B Crangle, D Humphreys, T Linton; M Lyttle, B Gourley; D Boden, A Reid, K McNaboe (capt).
Replacements: J Watson, P Johnston, M Hunter, T Millar, A Simms, L Simms, L Graham, L Millar.
WALLACE HIGH: J McNeight; L Allison, B Carson, J Dundas, N Robinson; J Dillon, N Doak; J Bailie, D Sedge, H Long; P McRoberts, D Kilpatrick; K Patton, H McMeekin, R Crothers (capt).
Replacements: D McCavery, J Crane, S Wilson, M Thompson, C Irvine, L Rushe, B Watson, L Nelmes.
Referee: Chris Busby