Winscombe 1sts 13 Wellington 1sts 14
By Ted Sands
Wellington pressed relentlessly
When Winscombe visited their Somerset rivals Wellington at the beginning of the season they lost by sixty unanswered points. The fact that they lost by a single point in the last minute of this enthralling match is testament to how they have improved and have hauled their season around in recent weeks.
Wellington, strong contenders for the Western Counties West league title, needed to win this match to stay in contention for the top spot. They faced a Winscombe team who were unbeaten in their last five games and have hit a rich vein of form. The match fully lived up to its billing and was a close-run affair, in the balance until the last move of the game.
Winscombe started strongly and playing down the slope soon established good field position. On a number of occasions they pressed for the opening score but were undone either by their own inaccuracy or by stout Wellington defence. The breakthrough finally came however when the visitors threw a loose pass on the halfway line during a rare passage of play when they enjoyed possession. Winscombe centre Owen Howells snatched the ball out of the air and raced half the length of the field to score the first try of the game in the left corner.
From the restart Winscombe continued to press and after a series of phases found themselves again in the opposition 22. Some desperate defence kept them at bay and Wellington even managed to steal possession. They failed to deal with the ball, however, conceding an offensive scrum beneath the posts. Quick Winscombe ball was spread to the left with Sam Dearsley coming into the line at pace, crashing over for the second try.
As halftime approached it seemed as if the home team would take this healthy lead into the break. Wellington had other ideas, however, and when open-side flanker Chris Kitty broke down the right touch-line the home defence was for the first time found wanting, centre George Harrison taking the ball and running it in to score beneath the posts. Fly-half Rob Hooper added the conversion to cut the deficit to three points as the whistle sounded.
Much of the second half saw Wellington press relentlessly for a score that would take the game in their direction, but a Winscombe penalty, converted by Fly-half Jim Merryfield stretched the home advantage still further. Wellington’s cause was not helped by a second yellow card shown to flanker Danny Lee, harshly reducing the visitors to fourteen men for the last quarter.
When Merryfield was late tackled whilst clearing from his 22, centre Sam Dearsley was given a 40m penalty chance to push the score beyond Wellington’s grasp. His kick drifted wide, however, and gave the visitors a last chance. Regaining possession from the drop-out they patiently made their way downfield and lay siege to the Winscombe try line. Working at the fringes of each breakdown they drove the ball up to the Winscombe line with lock Cameron Venn eventually driving over for a try. Hooper stepped up to kick the simple conversion that gave Wellington the game by a single point.