Friends show decisive edge for Wellington College win
Wellington College 3 - Friends School 22
Friends' School will be hoping for better playing conditions to show off their skills when they travel to Portadown College for their second round game in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup after digging deep to win 22-3 at Wellington College.
Also joining Friends and Portadown in the second round are Royal School Armagh, Royal School Dungannon, Antrim Grammar, Foyle College and Limavady Grammar.
The seven sides to emerge triumphant from round one are now joined by nine further teams coming on board for the second round and these are: Ballyclare HS, Bangor Grammar, Belfast Royal Academy, Dalriada School, Grosvenor, Omagh Academy, Portora Royal School, Rainey Endowed and Regent House.
As for Wellington, they now enter the Trophy quarter-final and host Banbridge Academy with the games in both tiers of the competition due to be played on January 23.
On Saturday morning, the theory had been that the atrocious weather would benefit Wellington but, in the end, it was the Lisburn school who clearly possessed the vital edge to progress.
The quality of Friends' defending, and their desire to play at a greater intensity and pace, negated both Wellington's more direct game-plan and the almost constant rain, and there were few arguments about the clinical-looking result.
Indeed, it was Friends who gathered themselves to survive the early second-half sin-binning of Curtis Dundas to crucially score two tries in quick succession once their eye-catching centre had returned.
And after flanker Kirk McGrady had crossed the Wellington line, it was Dundas who scored the second touchdown to effectively kill off the home side's challenge with flanker Adam Milligan's try in the final move of the contest just rubbing further salt into the home side's already deep wounds.
Friends coach Stephen Robinson said: "It was very tight in that first-half and the conditions maybe played into their hands a little bit more.
"We didn't really play in the style we wanted in that first-half but thankfully, in the second period, we did and that resulted in a couple of quick scores.
"I think the yellow card (for Dundas over a high tackle on Wellington's impressive skipper Jason Lyons) made a difference and that's when we conceded the points against us (a penalty).
"That did maybe inspire the boys to switch on and tune in and it was great that the boys played well and got the result they deserved."
Wellington coach Peter Chambers couldn't argue at the outcome which had seen his side battle bravely but to little avail on the scoreboard.
"At 3-3 (early in the second-half) we were delighted, but when we conceded that first try, which was really soft, the players looked as if they were already beaten," said Chambers (pictured).
"That was very disappointing but fair play to Friends. It was just frustrating that we gave them so many points."
The first-half was, indeed, strewn with errors and knock-ons which was understandable in the horrendous weather at Wellington with the driving rain, which only abated near the end of the second-half, making it a day for the forwards.
This situation suited Wellington's big runners such as impressive skipper Lyons and prop Colwyn Elwood, but they just couldn't do enough to put Friends under serious pressure.
Friends scored first and took the narrowest of leads into the second period after David Stewart kicked a penalty in the opening half.
Wellington hit the ground running on the resumption with Dundas' yellow card leading to the home side's most sustained period of pressure and a penalty was kicked under the sticks by centre Jamie Hewitt.
The pressure was now well and truly on Friends, with only 14 on the park, but they responded with a score from McGrady shortly after Dundas' return and David Stewart converted.
They then struck again and it was Dundas who powered over from close-in which Stewart, once more, converted.
Now trailing 17-3, Wellington looked spent and were unable to prevent Friends from bagging a third try in the game's final play when flanker Milligan broke through several tired-looking tackles.
Replacement Ben McGaughey was wide with the extras.
SECOND ROUND DRAW
Belfast Royal Academy v Grosvenor GS
Portadown College v Friends’ School
Bangor GS v Limavady GS
Regent House v Portora Royal School
Foyle College v Antrim GS
Dalriada School v Omagh Academy
Royal School Armagh v Rainey Endowed
Ballyclare HS v Royal School Dungannon.
Ties to be played on Saturday, January 23