Wellington College showed their undoubted class, and ability to play an intelligent game on Thursday afternoon as they beat high flyers Cranleigh.
The 18-8 win keeps Wellington College at the top of the Daily Mail Trophy table heading into the weekend, and they are in a very strong position to be able to retain the title that they won last year.
It has been a bit of an up and down season so far for Wellington, though only by their own loft standards, and Cranleigh fancied their chances ahead of this one, particularly as they are enjoying one of their better seasons.
Wellington though were always confident, though the loss of England internationals and star players in the likes of Matt Williams, Rory Brand, Ben Loader, and Josh Basham was a big hit to take.
Cranleigh started out as the stronger side though, earning as early penalty through which they just failed to capitalise, hitting the post. In this game every point was going to prove crucial, these two sides looked well matched and in unpleasant conditions it was to prove a real battle of the breakdowns in a game that was largely played between the two ten metre lines.
In that area the contest was lit up by Wellington College openside Jack Ingall, and Cranleigh number 8 Dino Lamb-Cona. The two were dominant on the ground and in the tackle, which at times made it rather one for the purists as they denied one another’s sides any decent possession.
It meant that the game was controlled largely by who played the territory best and whose kicking game came out on top. To that end Wellington College were sublime. From hand Tom Parton, surely odds on for England U18 selection, was exquisite, Cranleigh could not equal his range and ability to find the space. His full back Dylan Moss was outstanding in that regard too, while from the tee he also excelled.
For all the talk of kicking though, it was a moment of sheer footballing class that was the defining moment of the first half, and all that separated the two sides. With around ten minutes to go until the break, Parton, playing at fly half, took the ball to the line. To any onlooker, he looked like a man destined to be tackled, but some nifty footwork, wiggle of the hips, and some staggering acceleration shot him between the two defenders on the halfway line and racing into Cranleigh territory.
Turning up the speed, he rounded the full back and crossed the line to score a breathtaking try, it was the sort of try that deserved the 5-0 half time lead that it gave his side.
Cranleigh were still very much in it though, but more missed points from the tee were to cost them dear. Even more costly was a driven lineout early on in the second half that somehow Wellington managed to hold up over their line, had that been scored then Cranleigh could well have been looking at taking the lead in the game.
That missed opportunity was made even worse a few minutes later as for the second time in the game Wellington produced some magic, with Parton releasing the outstanding Moss, who broke free down the right hand side before drawing the fullback on halfway a released Ollie Kitto down the right wing.
Kitto used all of his speed to evade the scrambling defence before cutting infield to score under the posts, allowing Moss a simple conversion to go 12-0 up.
Throughout almost the entire game, those two Wellington College tries were perhaps the only proper linebreaks, which tells you a lot about the sort of game this was, and how clinical Wellington’s attack is as they managed to score from both.
Shortly after, Moss banged over another penalty before Cranleigh eventually landed a penalty of their own with around fifteen minutes of so left on the clock.
It felt like to little too late, but as they began to build a bit of pressure, they started to camp inside the Wellington 22 and began to draw a few penalties. Seizing on this slight momentum shift, they pumped the ball into the corner to set up another maul.
They got over the line with it again, but this time they were not to be denied the score that they felt they deserved as they crossed the whitewash in a mass of bodies. Identifying the scorer was nigh on impossible, but it was largely irrelevant too, this was a try that was all about the collective effort and will to win of a group of very good schoolboy players.
With under five minutes on the clock there was just the sense that perhaps this comeback could be on, certainly Cranleigh now looked the side on top, but Wellington, showing all of that in-game intelligence mentioned earlier, calmly went about their business and eventually managed to work a penalty.
From 35 metres out, Moss landed his eighth points of the game, and with it sealed a memorable win for Wellington, who will now travel to Broadstreet on Wednesday evening to play Sedbergh filled with confidence.
Cranleigh were very good at times, but just lacked that slight clinical edge that Wellington had, and Parton’s kicking game made field position nigh on impossible to dominate.
With more star names to be added, this Wellington side is only going to get better as the term draws to a close. Can anyone stop their chase for the Daily Mail Trophy?
Full Time: Cranleigh 8-18 Wellington College