- By Steven White. Photos by Andy MacArthur.
Wellington College have held on to beat St Pat’s Town 16-14 in their Wellington Premiership First XV opener at a sunny Evans Bay Park this afternoon.
For the most part, the match never reached any great heights in terms of skill and execution, but for drama and excitement the contest was befitting of contests between these two schools in their 138-year .
The contest came down to the last play of the game with Town’s first five Jayde Burns lining up a 37-metre penalty on the angle to win. He gave his kick a good nudge but pushed it wide, and referee Luke Pearce blew full time and the Wellington College supporters on the far side of Evans Bay Park swarmed the field.
Only a couple of minutes earlier, Burns’ opposite, Archie Sims, had kicked a much easier penalty from 25 metres in front to put his side in the lead for the second and final time.
The only other scoring in the second half had been a Sims penalty and a Town try, their second. This try had come in dramatic fashion from a charge-down. Sims had opened the second half scoring with a penalty to extend his side’s 10-7 half time lead to 13-7, but Town kicked deep from the kick-off and Wellington College’s exit play was charged down close to the line by halfback Max Reynolds, and right wing Alex Smith fell on the ball over the line. First five Burns converted to put the home team up by a point.
Playing with a moderate wind mostly in their favour, Wellington College had dominated the opening 15 minutes of the second half but all they had to show for it was the Sims penalty. There was a potential controversial moment during this time, when Wellington College chipped ahead into the in-goal and the defender batted the ball back over the goal line. The attackers were awarded a penalty but the match officials were unsighted on who it was, so no yellow card was issued.
There was also a slight knock-on over the line from a scrum by No. 8 Jack Riley that could ultimately have proved costly.
Earlier, Town had got off to the fastest possible start when Wellington College made a hash of the game’s opening kick-off and Town attacked from a lineout in the corner, from which lock Jake Townsend scored to put the home team up 7-0.
Town dominated the next 10 minutes using their big ball runners, but they soon waivered in their discipline and ball handling.
Wellington College got into the game and in the 24th minute, right wing Jacob Kennedy scored a fantastic individual try. This was started from a lineout 70 metres out on his side of the field, and he ghosted into the backline on the left wing side, burnt the last line of defence and sprinted up the driveway touchline to score in the corner. The left footed Sims kicked a nice sideline conversion to make it 7-0.
Wellington College launched themselves straight back on to attack, and three minutes later Sims kicked a penalty to make it 10-7, the halftime score.
As noted above, it wasn’t a vintage performance by either team, who made numerous errors at both set-piece time and general play, and gave away plenty of penalties. Much of the 70 minutes was a stop-start affair. Both teams also turned down kickable penalties in the first half that came to nothing.
Wellington College retains the Centennial Shield, winning this fixture for the third consecutive year.
Meanwhile, St Pat’s Town won the First XI Football exchange 2-0, with goals from Sam Gates in the 10th minute and one later in the piece by Charlie Hale. Perhaps bizarrely, this fixture was not a grading game; the two First XIs meet again for this on Friday.
St Pat’s Town – Wellington college last five Traditional First XV meetings
- 2019: St Pat’s Town 22-17
- 2020: St Pat’s Town 39-19
- 2021: Wellington College 31-18
- 2022: Wellington College 29-21
- 2023: Wellington College 16-14
- Played 138
- Wellington College wins: 83
- St Pat’s Town wins: 47
- Draws: 8
Beginnings: St Pat’s Town opened in June 1885 with a roll of 12 boarders and nine day students. One of the first orders of business was forming a rugby team and they played the Wellington College Second XV twice in 1885 and won both matches.
The following year, 1886, saw the inaugural First XV meeting between the schools and Wellington College won 9-0. They met twice in 1887 and St Pat’s Town won both matches, 14-0 and 1-0, and drew 1-1 in 1888, and thus a rivalry was born.
The remainder of the opening round of the Wellington First XV Championship starts this Saturday.
The draw is HERE
Elsewhere, Otago Boys’ High School beat Southland Boys’ High School 21-19 today and New Plymouth Boys’ High School held on at the end to beat Francis Douglas Memorial College 20-18 in their fixture this afternoon.