Wellington impress to beat Bryanston at London Irish

The excitement and tension ahead this game was quite incredible, parents and past pupils of both Wellington and Bryanston were easily visible charging through Waterloo station as they made the dash from work to get the train to Sunbury in time for kick off at London Irish.

The sense of anticipation as kick off drew nearer and the train stops went past continued to rise, chatter of Wellington making it three in a row began to break out, while Bryanston’s loyal brigade spoke confidently about the side they have assembled this year.

As the train drew in and we all began to walk over to the spiritual home of London Irish, where the junior sides were out training on the back pitches, it felt like the sort of occasion that top level schoolboy rugby is supposed to be, it felt like the sort of crowd that these players deserve.

Roars of approval came as the two sides charged out onto the pitch for kick off, with Wellington in particular looking buoyed by the noise and the atmosphere created under the lights.

It was Wellington too who began the brightest, immediately camping in the Bryanston 22 with wave after wave of attack. Excellent cover work from the Bryanston openside brought about a turnover though, and with space on the opposite flank their gifted fly half eased the ball across.

Unfortunately for the men in white though it was closed down, and it is here perhaps that the tension and expectancy of the occasion perhaps got to them. Rather than clearing their lines, Bryanston swept from side to side looking for an opening, trying to impress the support perhaps.

Eventually they tried a little box kick to break through the Wellington line, it was well covered though and within seconds the full back had waltzed through the kick chase defence as Wellington scored under the posts. With their inside centre on kicking duties, he easily added the extras.

Bryanston came back strongly from the kick off though and that immediate pressure saw them given a long-range penalty which was easily slotted.

Wellington regrouped having been given a stern warning from their captain Buchan Richardson, and they began to impose their physical game on Bryanston.

Continually wrapping around to keep attacking the same flank and using their powerful centres, along with their hard working second rows, to continue to cross the gainline; the tactic paid off as the outside centre crossed for a well worked try. Once again the conversion was made as the two sides kickers continued their own personal duel.

The pattern continued, with Wellington continuing to pressurise Bryanston, and whenever they conceded possession, forcing the men in white to try to create from their own half.

The pattern continued before a well worked move from the halfway line saw Bryanston go over in the corner, with the conversion almost inevitably added, the scores stood at 14-10 and for the first time in the match Bryanston looked like they had the beating of the men in hoops.

In pressure situation it is always the stand out players who emerge to relieve it, and that is exactly what Wellington Number 8 Buchan Richardson did, barging clear of the Bryanston midfield to go in under the posts to give Wellington a 21-10 half time lead.

Whatever was said at half time certainly worked for Bryanston as they came out for the second half looking like a different side. More determined, more physical and more selective in the areas of the pitch that they were going to play in.

For all of their improvement though, they could not break through the Wellington defence, which seemed content to give away penalties rather than risk any line breaks. Eventually one was conceded within kickable distance and Bryanston knocked it over with ease.

Again though Wellington showed great determination and fought back to regain some dominance, their midfield duo were running the show, with the excellent kicking of their inside centre from hand as well as the floor, pinning the opposition back.

It was not just his kicking though, with one typically bruising burst back into the Bryanston forwards, he set up a try in the corner, which he then knocked over from the tightest of angles.

The next few moments of play though will be causing Wellington headaches for weeks to come, with their scrum half succumbing to a knee injury. With first choice scrum half, Simon Sexton, already out until the New Year, it is a position that they can ill afford for further injuries in.

Bryanston though continued to be a different force in the second half, and they scored another penalty to keep themselves in touch, once again Wellington’s ability to recover from Bryanston chipping away at the scoreboard shone through as they went over for a try that had the feeling of a nail in the coffin.

Once again it was converted to give Wellington a 35-16 lead. The feeling of the game being up seemed almost to galvanise Bryanston though as they swept upfield with their full back and wing exchanging passes brilliantly down the right hand side for the right winger to score.

All in all though it was a thoroughly deserved 35-23 victory for Wellington College, who always looked the stronger side. The power and guile of their centre partnership, combined with the quality of Richardson was just too much for this Bryanston side.

Bryanston showed though that they are a quality side, and their fly half is a truly gifted ball player. It was perhaps that early ambition to play from anywhere though that left Bryanston under just too much pressure at times.

It was clear from this game though that these are two of the strongest sides in the country, and with this victory to build on, it can be expected that Wellington will go on to make this a season to be remembered.

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