Serial champ Wells toasts best ever win after sealing seventh crown
YESTERDAY’S big win over Belfast rivals Campbell College made it a magnificent seven Danske Bank Schools’ Cup titles for Methody’s Nick Wells and the decorated coach believes that this latest triumph is the pick of the bunch.
Having won his first all the way back in 2006, plenty of talented players have come under his watch, including a vintage crop a decade ago that included a host of players that would go on to represent Ulster, but yesterday’s seven-try romp against Campbell was something of a cut above.
“That’s hard to beat,” he said after the 45-17 win at Kingspan Stadium.
“Just because of the nature of the boys and their temperament. We had a lot of talent in the likes of (Worcester hooker) Niall Annett’s year group but we didn’t really get going in that final against Inst.
“These guys paid so much attention to their strength and conditioning, so much attention to the game-plan, and when it opened up they had the skills to really cut loose.”
Favourites all the way through the competition, Methody have had to deal with a weight of expectation from start to finish of what turned out to be an unbeaten season with many even going as far as to declare they are the best schoolboy side on the island of Ireland.
With the school’s rugby season so often defined simply by silverware, Wells believes the pressure to regain the trophy after four barren seasons brought the best out his talented bunch.
“You have to embrace it,” he said. “It’s better to be talked about than two or three seasons ago when we were seen as also-rans.
“We were always going to be favourites just because of the amount of ability that we have in the side, the number of representative players and leaders.
“Without sounding ridiculous, we have players here who wouldn’t look out of place togging out for an Under-20s side.
“Not winning since 2014, you don’t think about it that much. Your main focus is this group of boys and it would have been really difficult to take if these boys hadn’t fulfilled their potential. Not for me, but for them as a group.
“They needed to go out there and show everything they could
do. They’re a fantastic group with fantastic talents.”
Much to Campbell’s credit, they hung in the game until tiring late on and led 10-7 after a fine response to conceding an early try. The key swing in momentum came either side of halftime. With the score at 14-10 to Methody, the east Belfast outfit looked certain to score from a well executed maul, just as they had done earlier in the half.
But Methody were able to halt the attack and carry their lead into half-time. Just 30 seconds after the restart, they had a third try and an 11-point lead.
“If they get that score right before half-time it’s a different game,” Wells said. “That try we got just as the start of the second half gave us that confidence to open up a bit.
“If not, we might have tightened up and played a bit more of a kicking game.
“Credit to Campbell. They played really well and made that extremely difficult for us.
“We saw how well they defended against Armagh (in the semi-final), so the plan was always to soften them up up front and try and get them narrow to really make use of the backthree.
“We’ve been big fans all season of saying we’ll wear down the opposition. We back our conditioning, we back our skill-set, and it’s worked for us.”
Top class: Methody celebrate their win and (inset) Nicky Wells
Hauled back: There’s no way through for Campbell College centre Rex Tinsley (right) thanks to Tom O’Doherty