Methody retain Ulster title after perfectly paced comeback win over Campbell

Ben McFarlane’s late penalty earn 37th senior title at Kingspan Stadium

Methodist College 20 Campbell College 17

The first Danske Bank Ulster Schools Cup final to be played since 2019 proved to be well worth the wait as a cracking encounter was narrowly won by Methodist College over Belfast rivals Campbell College at the Kingspan Stadium.

A late penalty from fullback Ben McFarlane brought Methody their 37th Schools Cup victory in what was a rerun of the last final to be contested prior to the pandemic when Campbell again fell to the competition’s most prolific champions.

This time, though, Campbell were very much in the hunt to lift the trophy and led 17-7 shortly after half-time when winger Oliver Topping crossed for their second touchdown of the game. But Methody, with the wind behind them, gradually ground out it out through lock Harry Palmer's try and then a conversion and two penalty strikes from McFarlane.

Campbell – with Neil Doak on their coaching ticket – opened the contest with an early Peter Caves penalty but Methody bounced back quickly when centre Lorcan Hanratty touched down after some good work from his pack. Ben McFarlane converted the score to put Methody 7-3 up.

Campbell, with the breeze behind them, had the better of most of the attacking exchanges in the opening half and not long after Zac Solomon was held up, the east Belfast school scored their first try when 6ft 8 in secondrow Joe Hopes put in a tremendous run which resulted in Solomon this time getting over. Caves's conversion put Campbell 10-7 in front at the break.

The second half was three minutes old when Campbell had their second try, Topping coming in on an angled run to break through off Johnny McCraken’s pass.

Caves kicked a great conversion and Campbell had a 10-point cushion as the remainder of the game became mostly about Methody surging forward and testing their well organised defence.

Fullback Lukas Kenny pulled off a magnificent try-saving tackle on Methody winger Chris Bradley before the pressure finally told and Palmer dotted down on 47 minutes with McFarlane converting.

Just after the hour, the scores were levelled when McFarlane knocked over his first penalty, and then with four minutes remaining, a tired looking Campbell conceded at the breakdown and McFarlane opted for a long-range shot at goal.

He impressively converted to nudge Methody into the lead for the first time since the game’s early exchanges and though Campbell threw everything into one last attack, the south Belfast school held firm to win.

SCORERS – Methodist College: L Hanratty, H Palmer try each; B McFarland 2 pens, 2 cons. Campbell College: Z Solomon, O Topping try each; P Caves pen, 2 cons.

METHODIST COLLEGE: B McFarlane; C Bradley, P O'Hagan (capt), L Hanratty, J Dickson; R Lindsay, D Armstrong; C White, J O'Kane, F McAdam; R Kidd, H Palmer; P Fullarton-Healy, J Stevens, M Crothers.

Replacements: B Neill for Fullarton-Healy (50 mins), B Wilson for White, H Pratt for F McAdam (both 61).

CAMPBELL COLLEGE: L Kenny; O Topping, M Booth, C Florence, P Caves; T Crowther (capt), J McCracken; C Hillis, Z Solomon, D Hanlon; A Brennan, J Hopes; O McCauley, L Johnston, F Longstaff

Replacements: R Bell for Brennan, C Faith for Johnston (both 50 mins), C Massy for Hillis (61).

Referee: S Douglas.