It isn’t often that Wellington start as underdogs, but last week Whitgift toppled them 15-14 in a horribly stop-start match not conducive to the unleashing of their international three-quarter line, while unbeaten Millfield were coming off the back of a very convincing victory over Welsh powerhouse, Coleg Sir Gar.
Having narrowly avoided their three hour coach trip turning into an all-day affair due to a string of accidents, Wellington’s initiation to the Gareth Edwards/Jubilee pitch was to face an intense ten minute onslaught where they were lucky not to concede. They were turned over several times by some tenacious Millfiled rucking with Jasper Windsor-Clive very much to the fore.
However, survive they did and from a scrum on the half-way line the Wellington 9, Oli Wilson launched a powerful, jinking run past three opposition players before propelling a high, arching pass off his left to the Welsh U18 Dylan Moss, who is rarely caught given half a yard. Moss rounded under the posts and Will Sinfield added the extras. Wellington drew breath.
Millfield perhaps felt unlucky to have conceded against the run of play but there wasn’t any luck in Wellington’s second try five mins later. The Wilson/Moss show was back again but this time Moss took the ball before the gainline himself and showed incredible pace and balance to round the entire Millfield defence for surely one of the tries of the season.
0-12 down and another try might have put the seal on this game, but the home team were straight out of the blocks, pummelling the Wellington defence with wave after wave of driving play. Their reward was to come quickly with their first try, a charge-down when Wellington tried to clear their lines.
Wellington were back off from the restart and Ben Loader, their mercurial 15, looked to have scored after burning down the wing from 40 meters out but the referee drew play back to a ‘crossing’ incident and, at 7-12 as the half-time whistle blew, anything was possible.
Millfield had looked dangerous on the break with Oli Hobman at 10 using his magical step to great effect. Unfortunately, they just gave away too many penalties in key positions and, for the last 20 minutes Wellington’s forwards had begun to dominate. Charlie Jupp was a Trojan at the breakdown, a battle Millfield normally like to dictate but one in which they had become second best this afternoon.
The second half began in the same way with Wellington gaining quick ball for their backs to control at speed. Their third try was the result of some brilliant interplay between Loader, Rory McMichael, and Jacob Webb allowing Moss to complete his hat-trick in the right-hand corner. The young Welshman then converted his own score from the touchline to take his personal tally for the match to 17 with 25 minutes still to go!
Millfield took a further blow when they suffered a yellow a few mins later, but such is the heart and passion of this team playing at their HQ that they responded quickly. Captain Charlie Howard bought his players together and whatever he said galvanised their resolve and Wellington paid the price. The speed of the game was incredible throughout, with the next ten minutes belonging to the home side. Howard, Rhys Davies and Jack Burnett gave more than their all and Miles Letchford made an immediate impact from the bench. Scores for Cain Kennedy, and then a few mins later, Jo Sergeant came from beautifully worked play pulling the defence from side to side until it finally broke.
17-22 and into the final ten, the huge mass of supporters on the upper balcony of the pavilion found their voices once more and the volume around the ground reached fever point.
Millfield may have been just one score away from snatching an incredible comeback, but the visitors looked assured. Wilson managed to resist the regular advances of his opposite number. Wellington’s forwards are a match for anyone and it was another exceptional afternoon for Captain Josh Basham, Fitz Harding and surely one of the most mobile front-rows in the country (Cole-Fontayn, Tilleray and Boe). Their lineout also dominated with John Okafor reigning supreme in the air. Basham was a standout act. If he didn’t score all the tries himself, he did everything else superhumanly possible to get past the gain-line time and time again.
It was Wellington’s forward dominance that led to their final five pointer as their driving maul was bought down on the line and the referee awarded a penalty try. Moss converted and Wellington were in complete control.
Millfield’s discipline again let them down in the final five minutes giving Wellington two long-range, but kickable penalty chances. Who else but Moss struck them both beautifully to seal off his own 28 points and put the final gloss on a very impressive team performance 17-35.
Millfield willundoubtedly regroup and reflect and will surely be one of the teams of the season. As for Wellington, it really seemed to come together today. And, while it still early in the term they seem to have a bond and backbone that isn’t going to break easily, even on the very toughest of circuits.
Full Time: Millfield 17-35 Wellington College
By Tom Picton
You can see some photos of the game in our gallery of the weekend’s school rugby: Gallery – Saturday 1st October
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Photo via Bob Bradford Images