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Schools Cup Final RBAI v Campbell College: Inst write a new chapter of cup history

RBAI 13-3 Campbell College

By Jonathan Bradley

RBAI have won the Danske Bank Schools' Cup final against Campbell College.

Campbell dominated the game for almost the entirety of the second half, but it was a late James Hume try that sealed the victory for the holders.

Despite their lofty standing in the schools' game - this is their 56th final, second only to Methodist College - Inst had not secured back-to-back titles since reeling off six-in-a-row during the 1940s.

After their 14-10 success over Wallace High a year ago, a win today would banish that unwanted statistic but the champions are also chasing two unique feats.

In addition to last season's success in this competition, the school's Medallion team have tasted glory for three consecutive years while the 2nd and 3rd XV also claimed trophies during this campaign.

"Once you have been in one final, you get a real taste for it and you just want to get back," said Soper of his school's recent pedigree.

"That was the overriding feeling on the morning of the semi-final leaving the house, the overwhelming feeling of wanting to go back on St Patrick's Day.

"If we were to win, it would be the first time in the history of Ulster Schools' Rugby that a school has won (both) the Medallion Shield and the Schools' Cup two years in a row and it would be the first time a school has won all four cup competitions in the one year.

"Based on that, it would be a pretty special time but we haven't achieved that and we have just got to go and win this game and that is all we're worried about.

"It's just about this group of players achieving as much as they can in the short window they have as the 1st XV at Inst."

With last year's success in the bag, as well as another final appearance during his time at Ballyclare High and promotion to All-Ireland League 1B beckoning for his Banbridge team, Soper's credentials in Ulster are now well established with his captain Conor Field praising the Kiwi.

"Mr Soper is a great coach," said the player who leads his side from the wing.

"(He's) a bit of a genius in his own way; mad sometimes but the guy knows his rugby.

"He's really good as a backs coach and he gets the way our backline wants to work."

Field's Campbell counterpart, James Boyle, speaks with equal admiration for his coach, the former Ireland No.8 Brian Robinson.

The man who turns 50 this weekend collected 25 Test caps during a distinguished career, memorably scoring four tries in a World Cup game against Zimbabwe back in 1991.

"It amazes me that a man, to have been on the world stage and now trusting me with his first XV, I'm really honoured," said the hooker.

"I want to do all I can to reward that faith on St Patrick's Day."

This season, Robinson has been assisted by Ulster's Edinburgh-bound winger Rory Scholes, a former pupil at the east Belfast institution who was part of the team that secured their last title in 2011.

"We really appreciate all Rory's help," added Boyle.

"He's been brilliant for us all. To see how he's made his journey from the Schools' Cup to professional rugby, there's guys on my team who are going to do the exact same.

"I'm very close with the captain from that year too, John Creighton.

"He'd always send me a text before games and see how I'm doing. He's been a great influence.

"It was honestly the most amazing journey to watch those guys back then.

"To play Methody three times in a row and go on to win the final like they did was a great day for everyone and I hope to do the same for the school this year."

To do so would be the fulfilment of a long held dream for Boyle, one he maintained even when struggling to break into his year's first-choice line-up in his early years at the school.

"To be honest, I always dreamt of it but I never thought it would become a reality," said the pupil who plans to study in Edinburgh come September.

"I worked really hard and I'm getting the benefits of it now.

"It's been a crazy, crazy journey. I played in the 4th XV up to 5th year.

"Within a couple of months of a tough 5th year season I came up and I've had the jersey ever since.

"I always backed myself; I always knew the opportunity would come.

"At times I maybe thought, 'am I going to get the chance?' but I just kept the head down and made sure I was going to do everything I could to make sure I'd be there at some point."

Leading the side out for the final time today, those efforts will certainly seem worth it.

Campbell College: Ben Webb; Justin Savage, Jonny Haldane, Nicolai Koplewsky, Jack Howard; Patrick Beverland, Malcolm Corry; Matthew Russell, James Boyle, Tom O'Toole; James Nelson, Marcus Collim; Jamie Macartney, John Crowther, Jack Barry-Glendinning.

Replacements: Josh Chambers, Jamie Clarke, John McKee, Matthew Robinson, Tom Brady, Rory Cahoon, Oscar Yandall, Ryan Meharg.

RBAI: Joseph Finnegan; Conor Field, James Hume, Ben McGavock, Mark Keane; Michael Lowry, Rhys O'Donnell; Callum Reid, Neil Saulters, John Dickson, Harry Gallagher, Pierce McLernon, Charlie Fryers, Charles Cloke, David Whitten.

Replacements: Bailey Gribben, Jake Chambers, Corrie Barrett, Blair Robinson, Yasser Omar, Niall Armstrong, David Lyttle, Zak Davidson.

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