Resolute Friends' defence hold out Wellington

Wellington College 3 Friends' School 22

Schools Rugby - Friend's David Newell pushes forward against Wellington's Jamie Hewitt (right). Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A strong second half display from Friends’ School, Lisburn, saw them overcome a dogged Wellington College 22-3 in the first round of the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup.

The hard-earned victory set up a second round tie away to Portadown College, who narrowly defeated Lurgan College 7-3, on Saturday 23rd January.

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In a soaking wet, rainy Belfast, Saturday’s first half was a forward dominated affair with both packs battling each other at scrum time, in the air at lineout time and on the ground at breakdown time.

No quarter was asked or given for the duration of the game.

The only score from the first half came from a penalty kick which was converted successfully by Friends’ outhalf, David Stewart, to give his side a 3-0 lead.

Friends’ ill discipline cost them ground and possession at times in the course of the opening period but their defence was well-organised and kept the hosts out.

Clever work at the breakdown, allied to some big tackles from players such as Adam Milligan and Chris Nesbitt, ensured the Wellington attacks, which were intense, came to nothing.

Even the hard lines ran by the impressive Wellington College number eight and captain Jason Lyons came to nothing and it was the Friends’ School, Lisburn team, thanks to their stern defence, that took their 3-0 lead into the half-time break.

The second half started in the same manner with the wet and dirty conditions calling on both packs to work hard.

A strong run from Lyons resulted in a yellow card for a Friends’ School player which put even more pressure on the visiting defence.

As a result, Wellington College became encamped in the Friends’ 22.

They forced numerous penalties but again, due to outstanding defence from the visitors, they could find no way through.

However, a penalty from the trusty boot of Jamie Hewitt was some reward for the efforts and the game was tied at 3-3.

Friends’ came back with intent and, with Adam Scholfield taking a quick tap penalty, David Stewart was in a position to put his flanker, Kirk McGrady, over the Wellington line for a try.

Stewart duly added the conversion to put Friends’ into a 10-3 lead.

This try gave Friends’ renewed confidence and when a Wellington player dropped a box kick, George Pringle took advantage, gathered and made good ground.

His pass to Curtis Dundas was perfect and he outpaced a despairing Wellington defence to score a timely try.

Again, Stewart converted to make it 17-3.

In the last ten minutes of the game, both teams used a number of replacement players.

That didn’t half the visitors’ flow though as Friends’ attack maintained pressure on the Wellington defence.

This positive approach paid off when, in the dying minutes, Adam Milligan broke off the back of a maul to run in and touchdown to score an unconverted try and complete the scoring.

Friends’ will be on the road again in round two on Saturday, January 23, when they face Portadown College.

In the Schools’ Trophy, Wellington College will have a home quarter-final against Banbridge Academy.