Hollywood ending for Sullivan Upper ruined by Methody
Belfast school earns third schools cup in as many years
Methodist College’s Alastair McIvor runs in to score a try. Photograph: Inpho//Brian Little
Methodist College 27
Sullivan Upper 12
“We don’t get a free pass to the final every year,” claimed Methody coach Nick Wells on Friday, and Sullivan Upper were less than charitable as the Belfast school earned their third schools cup in as many years after a pulsating contest.
Sullivan had hoped to put over 100 years of misery to right and win their first title, but thoughts of a fairytale ending for the Hollywood side never looked likely.
Methody were forced into replacing Ross McAllistair at tighthead after he suffered concussion in the semi-final but suggestions that this would upset forward dominance and defensive routines were short-lived, as their pack made a major difference in winning the game.
The Belfast side began the match intent upon taking full advantage of early Sullivan infringements. Josh Bingham kicked for touch after being awarded a penalty at the breakdown and their first line out led to the opening try from Connor McKee .
At times throughout the game, Sullivan captain Ross Todd stood upright as he was tackled, actively seeking to show himself as the epitome of an underdog, with the ability and tactical savvy to wrestle yards from an unforgiving defence stood before him.
Unfortunately for Sullivan, his performance did not count for more than winning well- meaning compliments upon losing. McKee soon took Methody to a 12- point lead when he scored a second try after intercepting a loose Sullivan pass.
In reply Chris Jordan brought the Ravenhill family stand – housing the majority of Sullivan supporters – to its feet after completing a deserved score that began with scrum half Charlie McEwan delivering a quick pass to Josh Davidson. The second row rambled through the Methody 22 and offloaded to Jordan for a try that proved to be Sullivan’s most entertaining moment of a difficult day.
Before the break, Alastair McIvor crossed for a third Methody try.
Things might have been different had Methody’s defence given way to a Sullivan drive at the end of 35 minutes, but Michael Lagan walked his team to their dressing home in full command of a 37th schools cup triumph.
Sullivan were heartened soon after the break by a try from full back Johnny Betts; that also encouraged neutrals to believe an upset might be emerging. Yet Methody never panicked and instead they produced the brand of rugby for which they are most revered – hard-hitting forward dominance that allow backs to score with seamless motions.
Their fourth and fifth tries were of this traditional ilk, as Josh Jordan finished in the right corner, before a delightful move that saw backs Fraser Wallace and Rory Cairns exchange passes before releasing full back Connor Kelly to cross Sullivan’s line, closed out the game.
C Kelly; R Cairns, A McIvor, C McKee, J Jordan; J Bingham, F Wallace; B O’Reilly, S Weir, M Lagan (capt), A Livingstone, A Thompson, C Boomer, M McKinney, S Herdman. Replacements: J McCreanor, D Coulter, A Kilpatrick , R Cullen, Z Jordan, J McCollum, W Diamond, G Millar.
SULLIVAN UPPER: J Betts; C Jordan, D McMaster, M Cartmill, R Spence; M Adair, C McEwen; C McEvoy, M Crockford, C Griffiths, M Clarke, J Davidson, D Cave, A Bailie, R Todd (capt). Replacements: J Houston, C Jemphrey, P Cooper, F Jemphrey, Z Bertenshaw, H Harper, D Gilbert, M Nesbitt.