McFarlane produces sensational penalty for record triumph in Ulster

Methodist College overcome Campbell College 20-17 in Belfast derby.

Match winner Ben McFarlane is tackled by Joe Hopes.
Match winner Ben McFarlane is tackled by Joe Hopes.
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Methodist College Belfast 20
Campbell College Belfast 17

Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium

METHODIST COLLEGE BELFAST full-back Ben McFarlane produced a remarkable long-range game-winning penalty in the 68th-minute to earn them a record 37th Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup title with a thrilling 20-17 win over Campbell College Belfast in a pulsating final at Kingspan Stadium.

Nick Wells’ side trailed by 10 points early in the second-half, but they would go on to dictate proceedings and tie it up through a try from second row Harry Palmer and then a penalty from McFarlane, before the full-back became the hero with two minutes left on the clock.

Campbell had led at the break through a penalty from winger Peter Caves and a late try through hooker Zac Solomon, and they extended their lead shortly after the restart with another score from winger Oliver Topping, and it looked like they had done enough to force extra-time at least through a phenomenal defensive effort.

But when Campbell were penalised just outside their own 10m line for not rolling away, McFarlane became the hero by thumping over a sensational kick that had plenty to spare, handing them the win in front of their raucous fans.

Winger Caves got Campbell on the board early when he kicked a penalty inside the opening two minutes, but Methody responded straight off the restart as Campbell couldn’t hold the ball off the kick-off.

zac-solomon-scores-a-try Campbell College's Zac Solomon scores a try. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

A superb burst off the back of the scrum by openside flanker Josh Stevens set up the chance, taking them up to the five metre line, and after a powerful carry from captain Peter O’Hagan, it was his centre partner Lorcan Hanratty who picked and went off the ruck to snipe over.

It looked like Methody would go in ahead when they scrambled brilliantly in defence to deny Solomon a try down the blindside, a creative lineout move sending him charging towards the line only to be bundled into touch in-goal, but the hooker wouldn’t be denied.

Lock Joe Hopes set up the chance with a rampaging run through the middle, carving the Methody defence apart and leaving defenders trailing in his wake, and although he would be stopped short it would be Solomon who would crash over off the next phase from only five metres out for the score.

And they repeated the trick shortly after the restart to extend their lead, this time Topping getting over after a dominant maul saw scrum-half Johnny McCracken hit the onrushing winger off his shoulder and he burst through a tackle and over for the score.

Methody weren’t done, though, and they thought they had a sure fire try in response when winger Chris Bradley sprinted for the line, only to be denied by a world-class saving tackle from Campbell full-back Lukas Kenny, who hauled him down inches shy of the whitewash.

They would strike back, however, and it was lock Harry Palmer who burrowed his way over the line from close range to reduce the gap to three, and they nearly had another score straight after as they worked their way back up to the five-metre line, only for flanker Stevens to knock on.

Full-back McFarlane would tie the scores when he kicked a penalty with seven minutes to go and it looked like it would need more than just the 70 minutes to separate the sides, but whenever Campbell got on the wrong side of referee Stuart Douglas one more time, McFarlane made them pay with an incredible nudge.

Campbell had one more chance to steal the win away, winger Topping charging down the touchline and into the 22 to set up a grandstand finish, but a fantastic defensive set from Methody forced their rivals into touch and ensured they would be the ones lifting the trophy in the sun.

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(15-9) Ben McFarlane; Chris Bradley, Peter O’Hagan, Lorcan Hanratty, Joe Dickson; Ryan Lindsay, David Armstrong; (1-8) Callum White (Matteo McLaughlin 62), Johnny O’Kane, Finn McAdam (Harry Pratt 62); Ryan Kidd (Ben Neill 51), Harry Palmer; Patrick Fullarton Healy, Josh Stevens, Michael Crothers.
Subs not used: Ben Wilson, Josh McAdam, Liam Black, Jacob Kelly, Lewis Doherty.

(15-9) Lukas Kenny; Oliver Topping, Matthew Booth, Cal Florence, Peter Caves; Tom Crowther, Johnny McCracken; (1-8) Cameron Hillis (Chris Massey 62), Zac Solomon, Darragh Hanlon; Alexander Brennan (Reece Bell 51), Joe Hopes; Oliver McCauley, Luke Johnston (Cameron Faith 51), Flynn Longstaff.
Subs not used: Lucas Perez de Leza, Matthew Murphy, Henry Johnston, Matthew Rea, Stuart Johnston.


Tries: Hanratty, Palmer
Cons: McFarlane (2)
Pens: McFarlane (2)

Tries: Solomon, Topping
Cons: Caves (2)
Pen: Caves

Ireland internationals Devin Toner and Lindsay Peat were our guests for The Front Row’s special live event, in partnership with Guinness, this week. The panel chats through Ireland’s championship chances ahead of the final round of Guinness Six Nations matches, and members of the Emerald Warriors – Ireland’s first LGBT+ inclusive rugby team – also join us to talk about breaking down barriers in rugby. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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