Methody live up to their billing with whirl­wind dis­play

Belfast Telegraph - School's Cup - - SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS 2019 - Jonathan Bradley

ADEVASTATI­NG sec­ond-half per­for­mance from Methody at Kingspan Sta­dium yes­ter­day brought the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup back to south Belfast for the first time since 2014.

Over­whelm­ing favourites for the ti­tle all sea­son, they more than lived up to billing with a per­for­mance the like of which hadn’t been seen at this stage of the com­pe­ti­tion for quite some time.

In­ven­tive and in­ci­sive through­out, the young­sters con­fi­dently ex­e­cuted the game­plan put in place for them, wear­ing down their op­po­nents through hard-car­ry­ing for­ward play be­fore es­tab­lish­ing their dom­i­nance on the score­board thanks to some en­ter­tain­ing and fleet-footed rugby.

Last sea­son’s cham­pi­ons Camp­bell Col­lege stuck to their task man­fully through­out, but there likely isn’t any side at this level who could have lived with Nicky Wells’ boys at their ram­pant best. In­deed, ul­ti­mately their points tally was the most in a fi­nal for some 21 years.

In all, they ran in seven tries, five of them con­verted by Ethan McIl­roy, with five of them com­ing af­ter the turn when a po­tent back­line ran riot.

Out-half Thomas Arm­stong (be­low) bagged him­self a brace to cap off a mem­o­rable per­sonal per­for­mance, while

Max Lyt­tle, Ben Gourley, Cal­lum David­son, David Bo­den and Tom Mil­lar all went over the white­wash too.

“We’re a very de­ter­mined year

group,” said cap­tain Kevin McNaboe, who car­ried strongly through­out.

“Es­pe­cially with hav­ing 13 up­per sixths. We didn’t ful­fil our po­ten­tial at Medal­lion, then a fi­nal de­feat as fifth years, a semi-fi­nal last year, so the boys were re­ally pumped up for this one.

“There’s noth­ing bet­ter than do­ing it with 15 of your best mates. We’re a tight-knit squad and I think that does help. Do­ing stuff with each other af­ter school, do­ing stuff to­gether at week­ends, it does help and it was great to get the re­ward.

“See­ing (past cap­tains) Mikey La­gan, Rory Win­ters, Ross Kane lift­ing the tro­phy in 2012, ’13, ’14, we’ve al­ways been think­ing that could be us one day and it’s great to see it hap­pen.” Camp­bell have proven to be a res­o­lute de­fen­sive out­fit through­out both this year and last, but as the heavy rain eased just prior to kick-off, it played into the hands of op­po­nents, who boasted a host of play­mak­ers who all looked com­fort­able with ball in hand.

With such speed out wide, they were al­ways likely to pose a real threat on the counter and in­deed it was full-back McIl­roy who made the first dart­ing break.

The favourites were pil­ing on all the early pres­sure, go­ing for the cor­ner rather than the posts with the first few penalty at­tempts.

And for all the at­tack­ing tal­ent in their ranks, it was from the li­ne­out that they opened the scor­ing.

With 10 min­utes on the clock, hooker Daniel Humphreys hit ath­letic jumper David Bo­den and, while the first few drives at the line were stopped short, Ben Gourley mus­cled his way through the crowd to force the ball down onto the line.

With McIl­roy adding a fine con­ver­sion, it was an early 7-0 lead.

Camp­bell were back at Kingspan Sta­dium thanks to a clin­i­cal win over Royal School Ar­magh in the semi-fi­nals and once again here they were show­ing a real pro­fes­sional edge when it came to mak­ing the most of their chances.

A penalty for off­side gave Rankin the op­por­tu­nity to find a great touch in the cor­ner and, in what was a dev­as­tat­ing maul, hooker Harry Jack­son found a nice seam in be­hind John Gildea and Tobi Olaniyan to mo­tor across the white­wash.

Then, only a cou­ple of min­utes

later from a well-con­structed line-out move, Ol­lie Ral­ston put Harry Owens though a gap with a de­light­ful in­side pop pass, with Owens in turn re­leas­ing his cen­tre part­ner Rex Tins­ley.

Tom O’Do­herty got back to make the tackle, but play was called back for a penalty and a yel­low card to McIl­roy for his tackle in the build-up.

Rankin made no mis­take off the tee.

Methody made light of the man dis­ad­van­tage, though, and were on the at­tack for most of his eight min­utes in the sin bin.

When back to a full com­ple­ment, they called for a scrum af­ter be­ing awarded a penalty five me­tres out. Skip­per McNaboe’s break off the base was con­tained but lock Max Lyt­tle joined his sec­ond-row part­ner Gourley on the score­sheet with a strong fin­ish.

Camp­bell al­most re­took the lead right be­fore the half but Methody with­stood one more rolling maul in the last ac­tion of the first 35 min­utes.

And that piece of re­sis­tance loomed large just 30 sec­onds af­ter the break.

The im­pres­sive McNaboe car­ried strongly off the restart, with Lyt­tle also mak­ing good ground. But it was Thomas Arm­strong and Rob­bie Arm­strong who ex­changed passes back and forth to set the for­mer rac­ing un­der­neath the posts for a dream start to the sec­ond-half.

With McIl­roy con­vert­ing, Methody’s lead was all of a sud­den 11 points.

Just a tick un­der 10 min­utes later and they seem­ingly made things safe with a nice piece of snip­ing around the fringes from scrum-half Cal­lum David­son to make it a three-score game.

Camp­bell got one back al­most im­me­di­ately when Jack Stin­son charged down a kick and gath­ered the loose ball well. Keep­ing their heads and show­ing some pa­tience, it wasn’t long be­fore Dara Gaskin slipped be­tween two tack­lers to re­duce the ar­rears.

Rankin’s con­ver­sion made it a nine-point con­test with 20 min­utes still to play.

Methody’s tal­ented back­line were re­ally cut­ting loose though, look­ing dan­ger­ous ev­ery time they at­tacked and putting to­gether some in­tri­cate passes.

When the next try came, how­ever, it could hardly have been more sim­ple.

With Camp­bell hav­ing to clear the ball into touch off a prob­ing grub­ber in be­hind, as the boys in black or­gan­ised them­selves for the li­ne­out, Humphreys went quick, throw­ing the ball five me­tres and not an inch more to Bo­den, who had no prob­lems pro­vid­ing the fin­ish from close range.

With both sides go­ing to the bench, and Camp­bell tak­ing their turn at play­ing with 14 af­ter a yel­low card, re­place­ment Tom Mil­lar was next over the line af­ter fin­ish­ing a maul.

A now ram­pant Methody saved the best for last, go­ing the length from the restart, with speed­ster Chris Lar­mour fly­ing up the touch­line and giv­ing it to Thomas Arm­strong.

The ten had plenty left to do for his sec­ond score but a slick show and go opened it up for him.

PRESSEYE

Strong shout: De­light for Methody af­ter Thomas Arm­strong goesover

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