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Revenge in air for Wellington as they face Friends


Up for the cup: The Wellington College squad prepare to take on Friends

Up for the cup: The Wellington College squad prepare to take on Friends

Fitness training: Wellington College players warm-up

Fitness training: Wellington College players warm-up

Coach Peter Chambers and captain Jason Lyons

Coach Peter Chambers and captain Jason Lyons

Up for the cup: The Wellington College squad prepare to take on Friends

They are ready for the challenge and it seems a sizeable one as Wellington College prepare to host Friends' School Lisburn tomorrow in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup first round (kick-off 10.30am).

Having been heavily beaten by Friends, just over a month ago, Wellington know they will have to produce a massively improved performance to progress but the Belfast school are, nevertheless, confident that they can turn things round when it matters, in the cup.

They are able to take some encouragement from several decent showings despite losing eight of their 15 outings prior to this cup clash and the side have, notably, accounted for, an admittedly far from full strength, Methody and RBAI.

And there will also be plenty of added motivation for Wellington as Friends also managed to put them out of last year's Trophy competition, with the Lisburn outfit prevailing by the narrowest of margins.

This was deeply disappointing as Wellington would have harboured hopes of doing well in the Trophy, having made it all the way to the 2014 final where they lost, by a narrow margin, to Dungannon Royal School.

"Our goal is the same as always," says Wellington coach Peter Chambers who, as a player, was on the Regent House team which lifted the Schools' Cup back in 1994 before going on to play at London Irish as well as Randwick in Australia and Northland in New Zealand.

"Winning our opening match and then getting into the second round is the priority and there is every chance we can beat the team we're drawn with in round one and then, of course, it's down to the draw."

And Chambers reckons that if Wellington - who as Annadale won the cup in 1958 and were losing finalists in 1978 - can dominate Friends up front, and negate their effective attacking presence out wide, then they can make that second round draw which was denied them last year by another of those narrow losses, this time at Limavady.

"We lost by two points down there (last year) and that was really disappointing because with our results back then we really should have beaten them.

"We then went into the Trophy where, funnily enough, we met Friends who we had beaten comfortably enough earlier on in the season and they beat us by one point.

"It was just one of those games and that was us out which was a big disappointment with a decent squad that we had last year," Chambers recalls.

Wellington are hoping to use their forwards to tame Friends, deny them possession to work the ball out wide and use their strength to get the win.

"We can definitely match them up front and if we can do that, and the weather turns nasty, it will definitely be an advantage to us," says PE teacher Chambers.

"As well as a decent pack of forwards, we've a decent kicking game and we're a fit team with a good attitude though we don't have any particular stand-out players or speed merchants," he adds.

Though he admits that this year's squad may not have quite the same strength as the last couple of campaigns - all eight starting forwards from last year have now departed - there is no doubting Wellington's determination to succeed and they do have some pretty useful players.

"It's pretty new really," Chambers says of the side.

"We lost all of our starting forwards from last year, so it's a very young side and the majority of them are back again next year.

"We've actually got 42 players which is the most we've ever had at senior level," the coach adds with optimism.

One key player is skipper Jason Lyons. The number eight is a physical presence and the go-to man for Wellington's game-plan

Lyons is also the side's top try scorer with around half-a-dozen touchdowns from close-in power plays which probably gives an indication of how Wellington will want to play tomorrow.

Another notable forward is hooker Glen Higgins who has returned to rugby after a pretty successful stint as a swimmer.

But Wellington do have backline talent as well with out-half Luke Harris, an Ulster Schools 200m silver medallist, and at outside centre is Jamie Hewitt whose notable grandfather, David, played for Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.

"Any matches we've won we've had to fight hard for and we haven't really won comfortably against anybody," says Chambers.

Nevertheless, that battling quality could be the difference tomorrow.

Danske Bank Schools' Cup Round 2

Friday, January 8

Cambridge House v Limavady GS

Saturday, January 9

Larne GS v Royal School, Armagh

Lurgan College v Portadown College

Wellington College v Friends' School

RSDungannon v Carrickfergus GS

Banbridge Academy v Antrim GS

Belfast High School v Foyle & Londonderry College


Belfast Telegraph