Whether it be on Shakespeare’s stage or Spielberg’s screen,dramatists have often used the elements of weather to set a scene and heighten the mood of a performance.
On Saturday morning it appeared that Mother Nature herself was getting in on the act as the theatre of Pirrie Park played host to a Belfast derby whose first few scenes were mainly dull, just like the overhanging clouds, but whose finale broke through brightly in the end.
Under the gaze of an average-sized crowd for such occasions, the visitors made the best start, pushing Methody back into their own half and earning a number of penalties in the process. Two of these were kicked attempts, wide-right and wide-left, but RBAI’s James Hume was unable to convert his team’s pressure into points and so it remained scoreless. This seemed to encourage the home side and, becoming aware of Inst’s frustrations, they began to find their own rhythm, but that final pass or moment of magic was still lacking.
Despite the pressing of each side it appeared that the half would trudge towards 0-0 at its conclusion, but just before the interval a slick series of passes, stretching the MCB one way then the next, created an opening for winger Mark Keane who sprinted down the right to claim the opening points of the morning for the visitors. A missed conversion ended the half but Inst were still the happier side as they now had reward for their efforts.
HT: Methodist College 0 – 5 RBAI
By now a much larger crowd had gathered, spectators making their way over from the just-completed Medallion and 2nd XV matches which finished 7-3 and 10-33 respectively.
Having let 5 points slip just before the break, Methody came out much the stronger in the second half and RBAI’s defence was marked by desperation as time and again they only just managed to clear their lines.
However, very much against the run of play, Inst suddenly found themselves with a great chance to extend their lead: having cleared for the umpteenth time, they managed to push into MCB’s half and cause them to concede a very kickable penalty almost dead-centre of the posts. They seemed certain to go ahead, but Hume’s confidence had taken a hit and this seemingly simple kick went wide also.
This was the wake-up call Methody needed and 10 minutes before the end they earned a scrum inside the RBAI 22. Breaking away from the set play, the ball finally found the hands of Kane Doherty who danced through the previously impenetrable Inst defence to score a well-earned and well-deserved try. Jonny Jordan lined up for the conversion and had no such problems as experienced by his opposite number, kicking MCB into the lead with only minutes to go.
If RBAI were going to reply to this setback it had to be immediate; indeed, that’s just what they did, forcing the ball down into Methody’s half and earning a penalty in centre-field after a well worked lineout. There seemed to be some hesitation from Hume, having missed four previous attempts, but this time he placed the ball squarely between the posts to score the kick that really mattered.
Methodist College did have a brief foray back towards the opposite end in what was an exciting end to the game, which included a drop-goal attempt, but it was too late and the whistle blew to signal another agonising one-point defeat for the home side.