The inclement weather ensured that this year’s Schools Cup Final was not a classic, but both sets of fans ensured it remained a spectacle.
Occupying stands at either end of Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium, supporters did winners RBAI and gallant runners-up Methody proud with a strong show of colours and anthems.
At the Methody end of the ground a megaphone ensured one fan was heard above the rest while the Inst end was a hive of activity thanks to the bouncing black and yellow clad supporters who celebrated with gusto every time their team got on the scoreboard.
Between the vociferous youths were more mature fans of both sides on the west terrace who watched a tense battle play out.
At first, it seemed like it would be no contest as a rampant Inst roared into an early 12-0 lead thanks to tries from Rhys O’Donnell and David McCann. But Methody refused to throw in the towel and courtesy of a rousing comeback and a try from Chris Larmour, they reduced the arrears to 12-8.
However, RBAI held out and collected the trophy for a third successive year.
Donagh Finnegan watched proudly from the terrace as his nephews finished on the winning side.
Twin brothers Joseph and Patrick Finnegan were part of an RBAI team who defended resolutely in the second half to ensure Methody could not get back into the game.
Mr Finnegan said: “I thought the boys did well in horrendous conditions.
“I’m delighted for them. They’ll be celebrating this weekend.”
Former Methody pupil Alan Browne was at the match with his wife and three children who attend the school.
“They’ll be back,” he said of his old school. “And hopefully my son Will may be here in a few years.”
Nathan Hall had come over from Scotland for the game, but rather than remain neutral he and his wife had been hired as Inst fans for the day.
He said: “We’re friends of Janet Williamson, principal of Inst, she insisted we wore Inst scarves.
“There’s nothing in Scotland like this. It’s a great competition here.”
In other Schools’ Cup sports the footballers of Grosvenor Grammar beat St Columbs 3-1 after extra time, while St Mary’s Magherafelt won its first MacRory Cup beating St Colman’s Newry by 0-19 to 0-13.
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