Sublime Wellington take down Millfield in schoolboy classic

The 2014/15 season is already looking like one of the greats, at all levels. The Aviva Premiership has been a free scoring bag of excitement, likewise the youthful Aviva A League, while the Schools Rugby scene has seen some of the great school games.

Among those was that titanic tussle between Millfield and Tonbridge in the Champions Trophy, and their unbelievable destruction of RGS High Wycombe.

You can add another Millfield game to that list, for Wellington College v Millfield at Iffley Road was undoubtedly one of the great school matches.

Wellington won this highly anticipated match, the first between them for two years, with an astonishingly good display from their back division, with Matt Williams in particular running rampant as he bagged a hat-trick on his way to a 41-27 Wellington victory.

Probably the biggest compliment that one can pay to Wellington College is that Millfield did not play too badly, yes their discipline wavered – particularly in the second half, but discipline always wavers when under pressure.

It was, simply, another outstanding game of rugby between two outstanding teams.

Wellington College captain Will Wilson scored twenty-one points with his boot, from number 8, a feat that never fails to surprise, and it was he who opened the scoring with an early penalty.

Millfield quickly hit back with a try through outside centre Harry Close, and star full back Darren Atkins’ conversion gave them a 7-3 lead. Wilson and Atkins then went tit for tat with the boot as the scores moved out to 10-6, with Millfield holding a four point lead.

The game was even, both sides testing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, however Millfield had suffered a crushing blow, fly half Adam Hastings was forced off through injury, to be replaced by Andrew Nurse.

It was a big blow for Millfield, Hastings had been the man to send Close flying over after a neatly weighted grubber, demonstrating his all round skills, nevertheless, Millfield continued their attacking intent.

Wellington were equally ambitious though, and through Dolan and Williams in the centres they had real star quality, and Williams soon proved that, weaving through any would be tacklers to dot down under the sticks, turning the tide of momentum towards his team, and giving them a 13-10 lead following the Wilson conversion.

You could have been forgiven for thinking that the game was edging towards the final few minutes, not just the final few minutes of the half, such was the pace. On a lovely surface at Iffley Road, home of Oxford University RFC and Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile,  both sides were using the full width of the pitch and both were as capable to do so accurately and at pace as any in the country.

Wellington had the edge though and as they moved into Millfield territory Williams was away again, receiving a neat offload from Dolan to race away and send his side towards the break with a ten point cushion.

That was how it seemed at least, however Millfield are not just a skillful bunch, they are a determined group and they put both of those talents together to secure a wonderful score for young lock Josh Bayliss. It was an example of the sort of rugby both sides were trying to achieve, fast interchange between backs and forwards.

Suddenly as the half time whistle approached, momentum had swung back Millfield’s way, despite them trailing 20-17 at the break, and when Atkins slotted an early second half penalty to tie the scores, you sensed that Wellington had to step in and crush that momentum, it was not simply going to change because they wanted it to.

Crush it they did, and expertly so. First they chipped away at it, before exploding away to secure sixteen unanswered points in a twenty minute spell of brilliance.

It was Wilson who struck the first blow, and what a way to do it, slamming over a drop goal to restore Wellington’s three point cushion – Zinzan Brooke anyone? Three points in that situation are often tit for tat, not when they are secured like that!

Wilson then extended the lead to six points with another penalty, the game was still in the balance though, and discipline was still proving costly for both sides. Back chat from Wellington after conceding a penalty moved Atkins into kicking territory but it was just out of range.

The tide was turning the way of the Berkshire side and there was a sense around the ground that they had to score next, Millfield’s attack had already shown that you needed a mountain in front of it to keep it at bay.

Wellington did not shirk the challenge though and they came charging at the Millfield defence, moving deep into the Somerset side’s territory before that man Williams again danced through for his hat-trick. It was sublime footwork from the outside centre, who really had been the star of the show. Sometimes you can score a hat-trick and have a relatively average game, not so in this case, Williams was everywhere, and involved in everything.

Wilson landed his twenty first point of the night with another penalty as Millfield saw yellow, an inevitability given the referee’s displeasure with both sides at times, and Wellington were suddenly sixteen points clear, and surely safe and sound.

Fifteen Rugby posed the thought on twitter that it might be game over, how naïve, neither of these sides knows the meaning of down and out.

Millfield re-gathered, momentum had completely swung the other way, and their play had begun to be stuttered by botched clearances and too many scrums and penalties. It is to their great credit that with nine minutes to go they fixed all of that and began to exert some pressure of their own again.

As had been shown throughout the game, when either of these sides really turned it on in attack, there comes a point where there is little the defence can do anymore – and these are two defences that we have mentioned in previous weeks as being as good as any, that just shows what they each have going the other way.

Millfield proved that point as they went through the phases in the Wellington 22 before Nurse just glided through to dot down under the sticks, bringing his team into the realm of possibility as they closed the score to 36-27.

Nine points was a solid enough lead for Wellington though, but in keeping with the game, they knew that attack was the best form of defence in this type of game, and such had been the quality of their attack, they knew they could trust.

Not only could they trust it, they could revel in it. Truly it had been one of the outstanding attacking displays at schoolboy level, and their opposition had had not been far short either. Wellington had one last ace up their sleeve, something to send their supporters away cheering to.

Tom Parton, who had moved to full back for this one with Sam Aspland-Robinson out injured, accelerated away on an outside arc, beckoning his right wing back inside him – the only move available as the space narrowed and narrowed. Not so if you are Parton, he sold the dummy and then rounded off his arc to dot down in the corner, a beautiful score to end a beautiful game of rugby, and enough to give Wellington College a 41-27 victory.

The 2014/15 season is definitely an exciting one, and given the quality of players on show at Iffley Road, we can expect the 2015/16 seasons and beyond to be equally enthralling as these boys become men and the very best start to light up the A League and then the Premiership.

Be in no doubt, these are two of the very best, and following victory, Wellington College will feel that they have a right to claim top spot right now.

Full Time: Wellington College 41-27 Millfield

Photos of the game are available on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby

Teams:

Wellington College:

1. Callum Kotsapas  2. Charlie Tarn  3. Anthony Morris  4. Ollie Cook  5. Josh Basham  6. Jack Ingall  7. Isaac Curtis-Harris  8. William Wilson (c)  9. Rory Brand  10. Will Brinkley  11. Sam Trowbridge  12. Conor Dolan  13. Matthew Williams  14. Tom Papke  15. Tom Parton.

Millfield:

1. Nick Isbister  2. Aston Lester  3. Henry Peck  4. Rory Mitchell  5. Josh Bayliss  6. Gabriel Oghre  7. Olly Turkington  8. Bailey Ransom  9. Josh Barton  10. Adam Hastings  11. Oliver Buck  12. Redford Curtis  13. Harry Close  14. Hadleigh Tucker  15. Darren Atkins.

16. Andrew Nurse  17 Oliver Dawe-Lane  18 Xander Reid  19 Nathan Thomas  20. Alex Tiarks.

Scorers:

Wellington:

Tries – Williams x3, Parton

Conversions – Wilson x3

Penalties – Wilson x5

Yellow – Basham

Millfield:

Tries – Close, Bayliss, Nurse

Conversions – Atkins x3

Penalties – Atkins x2

Yellow – Reid

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