Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Schools Cup

Methody strike late to preserve hat-trick bid

By Jonathan Bradley

Wallace HS 12 Methodist College 17: Methody snatched their place in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final thanks to a late try from Steven Weir.

The Ireland under-19s hooker touched down with two minutes to go following a storming rolling maul from the Methody pack.

The score meant heartbreak for the students of Wallace, who looked set to advance to their first final since 2007 after they led by two points in the closing stages.

Tries from Ryan Branagh and Phillip Hylands had given the Lisburn school a deserved advantage but Nicky Wells' side, as ruthlessly effective as ever, now remain on course to win their third consecutive title.

The game – played at Upper Malone rather than Ravenhill due to the ongoing redevelopment work at the home of Ulster rugby – began slowly, but Wallace gradually gained the upper hand and were awarded a penalty after six minutes.

Ryan Moore's shot at goal arrowed wide of the left hand post, however, and the contest remained scoreless.

Irish Schools player Jacob Stockdale provided the most tangible threat to Methody's ambitions with three breaks over the gainline in the opening quarter of an hour, but it was his partner in midfield who opened the scoring after 26 minutes.

Wallace worked the ball from right to left before it arrived in the hands of Ryan Branagh and the inside centre showed a great step to cut inside the attempted tackle and barge his way across the whitewash underneath the posts.

Ryan Moore had no trouble with the conversion and kicked the underdogs into a seven point lead.

Methody were roused by their first try concession in the competition since last year's final and a quick response seemed inevitable.

However, the committed defence of a pack led ably by captain Callum Irvine and a fantastic covering tackle by full-back Phillip Hylands on the advancing Rory Cairns almost protected the lead until the half-time interval.

As the turn loomed, Wallace weren't prepared for a quick tap-and-go penalty and when the ball was offloaded to captain Michael Lagan, they could do little to stop the Ireland under-19s prop from diving over the line.

Josh Bingham's conversion made the score 7-7 at the break.

Shortly after the restart, Methody's Connall Boomer was forced off with an injury and matters worsened soon after when Hylands took advantage of some poor tackling to dance along the left touchline and score.

Moore's conversion came back off the posts, but Derek Suffern's side crucially held the lead.

Ten minutes into the half and a penalty from Bingham reduced the arrears but the out-half's missed drop goal attempt on the hour mark allowed Wallace to hold their advantage.

A cavalcade of late penalties awarded to Methody increased the pressure, as well as producing a yellow card for Irvine, and as the game edged towards its conclusion, Wallace were forced to defend a line-out deep in their own territory.

There was almost an inevitability about the way that Weir and his fellow forwards subsequently rumbled over the line for the game's winning score, but the dejection of the Wallace players showed just how close they had came to a memorable upset.

Methody will contest the Ravenhill final with the winner of tomorrow's game between Sullivan Upper and Coleraine Inst (Queen's University, 2.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph