Wellington College U15s maintained their unbeaten record with a dominant second half performance, to hand Sedbergh School U15s only their second defeat of the term
The annual tour of the South by Sedbergh teams affords an opportunity to catch one of the North’s top schools outside Cup competition. Their traditional itinerary could hardly be more challenging, playing Millfield on the Wednesday and Wellington on the Thursday. This year’s visit to Wellington had the added interest of providing a rematch of March’s NatWest U15 Cup final, when Sedbergh triumphed, ending Wellington’s hitherto unbeaten season which included a 34-0 defeat of “the Brown” in the equivalent December fixture at Crowthorne. Several of those who had played in the Twickenham encounter took the field in overcast but mild conditions.
Wellington flanker Ted Johnson was quick to make his mark on the game, with a strong carry into the Sedbergh 22. Although the ball went forward, the home side quickly regained possession and the pressure on the Brown line was maintained. After several thrusts were repulsed by tenacious defence, a big hit by centre Fraser Jones catching the eye, the powerful Wellington forwards made inexorable progress, and prop Fin Baxter crashed over on the left after Sedbergh had conceded a free kick at a scrum. Full back Max Thomas’s conversion attempt was just wide.
From the restart, after winning a penalty the visitors gained a period of possession inside the Wellington half, but struggled to get across the gain line and a turnover saw the home side back in the ascendancy. The Sedbergh line was again threatened when second row Arvind Sangha broke through tackles on a run down the right touchline. After two defensive scrums the pressure was relieved when Sedbergh No 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu showed that the home side did not have a monopoly on strong running forwards, breaking out to half way.
It seemed that Sedbergh might restrict Wellington to a single score at the interval, but a penalty was conceded, From the kick to the right corner, lineout ball enabled the Wellington forwards to set up a maul, and it was again Baxter who dived in to score. It looked as if the home side would enjoy a two score advantage at half-time, but a penalty conceded from the restart gave Sedbergh a chance to go for goal and full back Oliver Melville’s kick from the 10m line was successful.
Half-time: Wellington College 10-3 Sedbergh School
The Wellington 2nd XV pitch on which the game was being played has a slope on it, and the home side soon made good use of it to camp in the Sedbergh 22. After an initial attack down the right had been repulsed and Wellington had brought on fresh legs, a period of sustained pressure ensued. Johnson and No 8 Nicholas Teague were each given running opportunities from set pieces, but the defence held firm and the Sedbergh backs took every opportunity to run what possession they were able to gain, fly half Murray Redpath stepping would be tacklers.
With Sedbergh unable to break out of their own half a score seemed inevitable. Lineout ball claimed by Teague gave Johnson another opportunity to take the ball at pace and he broke through tackles to score, Thomas converting. Wellington were now on top with fly half Michael O’Donoghue running the show. Just as Sedbergh finally had taken play up to half way, a loose ball was fly hacked into the left corner and from the lineout Johnson again took play close to the line before finding Teague out wide, and the No 8 dived in at the corner.
Further strong carries by Teague, direct from the restart, and then by Johnson took play deep into the 22 and the Wellington forwards drove to the line on the right. With the Brown defence forced to commit players to the threat, an overlap was created when the ball was moved swiftly through hands to the left, and Teague was again on hand to complete the scoring.
This was ultimately a decisive victory for Wellington, but, especially after last season’s experience they will not be complacent should the two schools meet again at Twickenham. The Brown coaches were making no excuses but a game the previous day at Millfield will not have been ideal preparation. In the meantime, both sides face fifth round Cup ties before Christmas, Wellington making the always tricky visit to RGS High Wycombe and Sedbergh hosting perennial rivals RGS Lancaster.
Full time: Wellington College 27-3 Sedbergh School
Wellington College: Fin Baxter (Vice-Capt),Marcus Rhodes, Alessandro Heaney, Max Watson, Arvind Sangha, Ted Johnson, Cassius Forshaw, Nicholas Teague, Finn Livingstone-Learmonth, Michael O’Donoghue, Charlie Bradbury, Hector Elrington (Capt), Harry Cain, Paul Dewey, Max Thomas
Replacements: Mack Keast, Alfie Mason, Ben Murrin, Tommy Offer, Jack Kinnear, Guy Bryer
Sedbergh School: Seb Wilman, JJ Kouaddio, Laurence Slade, Sandy Turner, Tristan Duncan, Juan Fischer Montero, Iain Carmichael, Carwyn Tuipulotu, Ewan Page, Murray Redpath, Ben Burridge, Cameron Melville, Fraser Jones, Hector Panday, Oliver Melville
Replacements: Percy Johnstone, Max Wallace, Eddie Jackson, Conor Campell