Instonians and Queen's Ulster Senior Cup final a 'wonderful' advertisement for club rugby

Instonians are in dreamland after taking home the Ulster Senior Cup for the first time in a quarter of a century.

The club secured a 36-26 win over Queen’s University at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.

It marks another high in the recent resurgence in the fortunes of the Belfast club, as they completed a memorable league and cup double.

Instonians won All-Ireland Division 2B in recent weeks making it back-to-back promotions.

The club also made the Senior Cup final the hard way beating top flight sides Armagh and Ballynahnich, on the way to the decider against Queen’s who also play in a higher league.

The showpiece final also bought together the two most successful teams in the history of the competition. Queen’s have 24 victories while Instonians have now lifted the cup 19 times.

Just to add to the history surrounding the event, Queen’s and Instonians played each other in the very first Senior Cup final 100 years ago.

This was also Queen’s third final in a row having won in 2022 and lost last year’s final. So, with all that history the big question was – could the final deliver?

The answer was an emphatic yes, this was a wonderful advertisement for Ulster club rugby, with both teams producing thrilling rugby, great tries and an enthralling contest that was only decided after extra time.

There is often an emphasis on Ulster and Ireland, but this was proof if it were needed that Ulster clubs offer great entertainment, high quality rugby and a product that fans love.

Queen’s opened the scoring with a penalty from Ben McFarlane before Inst hit back with a two try salvo. First hooker Oli Clark went over for their opener before Bradley McNamara produced a searing run from fullback to score. Richie McMaster added the conversion to make it 10-3.

Queen’s showed their fighting spirit last week in a hard fought playoff final win over Barnhall to preserve their place in Division 1B and that resolve was on show again as they replied with a try from Jake McCay making it 13-12 to the students at the break.

McFarlane extended their lead with two more penalties in the second half before Inst levelled the scores with a second try from Clark, converted by McMaster.

The match was end to end and Instonians eventually took the lead with seven minutes to go with Ireland club scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell racing in a for a superb try with McMaster once again adding the extras to make it 26-19.

Queen’s never say die attitude was to the fore again in their fightback as the clock ticked down and that culminated in a try from former Ireland U20s star Rory Telfer, with McFarlane converting to make it 26-all after 80 minutes.

So, the bumper crowd got added value with the match going into extra time, and Instonians broke the deadlock with McMaster kicking a penalty after eight minutes.

Queen’s kept coming at Inst and they threatened strongly before Instonians forward power told at the end with substitute Neil Saulters rumbling over for a try before McMaster adding the finishing touch with another conversion to make the final score 36-26.

It was devastating for Queen’s who contributed mightily to this titanic contest but delight for Instonians as captain Mark Keane lifted the famous Ulster senior Cup trophy. It was 25 years since the club last lifted the cup but after this fantastic showpiece it might just have been worth the wait.

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