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Your Club Your Lions: Instonians

Your Club Your Lions: Instonians

For any rugby club, having a British & Irish Lion represent them is a huge honour – but to have the Lions captain hail from your ranks is something extra special.

"David Hewitt was absolutely outstanding, I have not seen a better attacking centre since."

For any rugby club, having a British & Irish Lion represent them is a huge honour – but to have the Lions captain hail from your ranks is something extra special.

Belfast-based club Instonians R.F.C are fortunate to have had the latter honour on two occasions, with Sam Walker and Robin Thompson selected to lead the squads in 1938 and 1955 respectively.

Harry McKibbin joined club-mate Walker on that 1938 Tour and five further Instonians, including Thompson, have played for the Lions since then.

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And the club’s rich history, which includes 20 outright wins of the Ulster Senior Cup, is definitely a source of real pride for long-time Instonians member Dixie Dean.

“I would like to think there’s pride in our history, Instonians were so dominant in Ireland,” said Dean, who has been part of the club since the early 1960s.

“I don’t know if any other club can boast having two Lions captains having played for them.

“When they won the Ulster Championship in 1958 they went a season and a half without being defeated.

“Between the World Wars they dominated Ulster rugby – in 1925 they played Glasgow Academicals for the unofficial championship and lost but both sides had six internationals.

“And of the six internationals playing for Instonians, they were all backs.”

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Instonians R.F.C grew from an Old Boys club for the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and played in the school colours of yellow and black.

In 1919 the purple hoops, which are still on the shirts today, were added as a mark of respect from the founders to the classmates who did not return from the First World War. 

The club originally played at Bladon, on part of the former Malone Golf Club Links, before moving to Shane Park, where they played their rugby until 1999.

The club had opened its doors to members outside the school in May 1990 and at the turn of the millennium, the club moved to Shaw’s Bridge where they established a ground share arrangement with Cooke RFC.

The club now has rugby, cricket and hockey sections all playing on the one venue in the midst of the Lagan Valley Regional Park and has won the Ulster Senior Championship outright six times.

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And while Walker and Thompson may stand apart in Lions history for their captaincy role, there’s one other Instonians player who has stuck in Dean’s mind through the years. 

“[Two-time Lion] David Hewitt was absolutely outstanding, I have not seen a better attacking centre since,” he added.

“I went to watch him, he had exceptional hamstrings which gave him the acceleration.

“He could take off from a standing start and get around his opposite number without any difficulty.

“He had electric acceleration and when he played for Lions in 1959, he was only 19 –basically straight out of school. Once I saw him pick up the ball in the dead ball area and he went up the other end and scored.

“He was always fast. A New Zealand full-back was tackling him and he made a forward pass to Tony O’Reilly and the story goes that his excuse was O’Reilly was in front of him – but O’Reilly said he could never keep up!”

1938 – Sam Walker, Harry McKibbin
1955 – Robin Thompson
1959, 1962 – Dave Hewitt
1966 – Ronnie Lamont
1980 – Colin Patterson
1983 – David Irwin

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