Wellington College maintained their unbeaten record this term with a convincing win in the NatWest U15 Schools Cup, South-West B. running in seven tries against Marlborough College despite determined defence.
Wellington have made regular appearances in the latter stages of the Schools U15 Cup in recent years, but have only reached the final once since their school’s “double” year of 2008, as runners up in 2016, having been unbeaten until they met Sedbergh in the final. Their 2016 / 2017 side look to be placed to maintain that standard. Marlborough came into this game having lost narrowly to Bryanston and Canford and with a draw with Eton and wins against Radley and St Edward’s.
With the Bigside much in demand and the playing surface needing to be maintained in good condition after heavy rain in the preceding few days, the game was played on the Derby pitches, with a chilly Easterly breeze blowing straight down the pitch, the home side enjoying that advantage in the first half. Turnover ball gave Wellington a scoring opportunity almost from the kick-off, right wing Paul Dewey crossing to give his side an early advantage.
The powerful Wellington pack was soon dominating the set scrums, and a second try in the right corner looked likely, but was thwarted just short of the line by an excellent cover tackle. When play was switched to the left, Marlborough were penalised, but the throw to the ensuing line-out was ruled not straight and the pressure was lifted. The respite was brief, as flanker Ted Johnson took the ball at pace in midfield and broke several tackles to score under the posts, full back Max Thomas converting.
After successive penalties had given Wellington good field position, it was Johnson who scored again, after scrum half Finn Livingstone-Learmonth had taken a quick tap. The home side continued to press but determined Marlborough defence kept them out and well struck clearance kicks by outside centre Henry Adamson eased the pressure despite the headwind. Finally the Wiltshire school broke out of their half, a box kick down the left touchline being well collected by No 8 Arthur Hardwick who carried to the Wellington 22, where the defence were penalised. Play was switched to the right, but Marlborough were unable to break through and forced to resort to a kick to the corner which was safely gathered and touched down by Wellington.
Half-time: Wellington College 17-0 Marlborough College
Although Adamson’s kicking game started to make use of the wind at his back, Wellington’s dominance up front continued to tell. After a period of pressure inside the Marlborough 22, good hands saw the ball moved quickly to the left and outside centre Harry Cain squeezed in at the corner. A fifth try followed directly from the restart, with Dewey showing impressive pace down the right touchline from inside his own half, evading tacklers to score in the corner.
Another Wellington attack down the left was thwarted by an excellent tackle from open side flanker William Ackerley, who was consistently effective at the breakdown and he forced a penalty. This was taken quickly, Hardwick making some hard yards. Although the No 8 was stopped, he soon showed his carrying ability, making ground before offloading to second row Algie Lyster-Binns, and Wellington were again penalised on half way. Successive kicks by Adamson promised a potential scoring opportunity, but the wind took the second of these beyond the in-goal area.
With Wellington rotating players from the bench, including a couple of U14s, the game was opening up and first Dewey and then Johnson each took the opportunity to complete their hat-tricks of tries. Despite the deficit having been stretched, Marlborough maintained their dogged defence, with Hardwick and Ackerly continuing to catch the eye, before time ran out.
This is a very strong Wellington U15 side, which contains a number of powerful players whose size belies their youth. Marlborough can hold their heads high to have kept the score to reasonable bounds against a side that had put over 40 points on Dulwich, Whitgift, Eton and Hampton. The teams will meet again in their block fixture next month. In the meantime Wellington face tough games against Harrow and Sedbergh, before meeting perennial South-West divisional rivals RGS High Wycombe in Round 4 of the Cup.
Full time: Wellington College 37-0 Marlborough College
Wellington College: Fin Baxter, Lucas Brooke, Marcus Rhodes, Max Watson, Arvind Sangha, Ted Johnson, Cassius Forshaw, Nicholas Teague, Finn Livingstone-Learmonth, Michael O’Donoghue, George Morison, Charlie Bradbury, Harry Cain, Paul Dewey, Max Thomas
Replacements: Alessandro Heaney, Ben Murrin, Alfie Mason, Guy Bryer, Hector Elrington, Monty Bradbury, Eddie Morison
Marlborough College: Archie Palengat, Dylan Murray, Christian Freeman(Capt), Algie Lyster-Binns, Edward Abbott, Henry Di Monaco, William Ackerley, Arthur Hardwick, Felix Henderson, Hugo Thompson, Marcus Hudson, Robert Milne, Henry Adamson, Kamdi Dozie-Ajaegbu, Pierce Luthi
Replacements: Aubrey Clark, Henry Grant, Harry Alexander, Marcus Wimbush