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In pictures: Schools’ Cup fever

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THE hallowed turf of the home of Ulster Rugby at Ravenhill was taken over for the day by the cream of the Province’s schoolboy talent.

The stands were a sea of the blue and white stripes of Methodist College, Belfast and the yellow and black stripes of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution as hundreds of teenagers turned out to support their fellow pupils, many also with their faces colourfully painted in their school’s colours.

There were roars from the crowd as Royal Belfast Academical Institution captain Josh Atkinson scored an early first try giving his school the lead over favourites and last year’s winners Methodist College, Belfast. However Inst jubilation was shortlived as one of the undoubted stars of the match Josh Bingham scored his first try, equalising the score by half time.

Inst suffered a serious blow just before half time with Atkinson having to leave the field with an ankle injury. There fans however were undeterred and continued to give their team loud and enthusiastic support with screams, drums and horns for the rest of the match.

But despite this Methody truly came into their own in the second half with tries scored by Conor Kelly and Bingham, bringing the score to 20-5 by ten minutes before the end.

Methody supporters were so excited to celebrate their second consecutive victory that they started a countdown before the match had even ended, and when it finally did they stormed on to the pitch leaping for joy.

Methody schoolgirls Rachel Tombs, Alison Forsythe, Beth Stewart and Megan Steele were among the excited supporters on the pitch during the celebrations, they insisted they knew Methody would win from the start, although conceded Inst’s early try worried them a little bit.

“We’re over the moon,” said the girls. “We always knew we would win, but that first try did worry us a little bit, now we’re so happy and pleased with the result.”

And friends Corey Johnston and Jonathan Wilkinson were also jumping for joy on the pitch wearing colourful blue facepaint in support of Methody.

The two south Belfast schools are among the best in the Province and have met each other in the Schools Cup final 14 times previously. Methody have won the Schools Cup a record 34 times and shared it twice, while Inst have won it 29 times, and shared it four times. They last won the cup in 2007.

Former Inst headmaster Michael Ridley was among the spectators. He told the News Letter that they had expected a tough match, adding that Methody were Inst’s closest rivals not just geographically but also in rugby.

“All the pupils know each other well, Inst have done very well this season, they tackled well and have had a great defence, but we always knew Methody were their closest rivals,” he said.

While former Inst student Sir Kenneth Bloomfield commented he was disappointed but paid tribute to the Methody team and urged the boys not to be too disappointed, adding that they would remember the experience of playing at Ravenhill for the rest of their lives.

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