Se­rial champ Wells toasts best ever win af­ter seal­ing sev­enth crown

Belfast Telegraph - School's Cup - - SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS 2019 - BY JONATHAN BRADLEY

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

ROB­BIE COOPER

Hauled back: There’s no way through for Camp­bell Col­lege cen­tre Rex Tins­ley (right) thanks to Tom O’Do­herty

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