Kurt Warford of the Rock Under-18 team tries to battle through of couple of Kelly College tacklers during an exhibition rugby game Wednesday night at the Swilers Complex in St. John's. Kelly College, a visiting English school team, won 18-17. Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
Kelly College from Devon, England booted a late penalty and hung on to edge the Statoil Newfoundland Under-18 Rock by a score of 18-17 in an exhibition rugby match Wednesday night at Swilers Complex.
The touring English squad led 12-10 at the half of a hard-fought contest that got a little nasty at times.
Standout Jamie Briant, who earlier in the game delivered a dandy straight-arm before sending teammate Jeremy Massy-Birch in for a try down the sidelines, slotted the winning penalty kick.
Standout back Kurt Warford opened the scoring for Newfoundland with a dazzling zig-zag run to paydirt around the 10-minute mark of the game. Warford, who chipped in with a penalty and two conversions, also set up a try by Blake Moulton.
A Newfoundland player and a Kelly College opponent exchanged punches during a brief dust-up in the second half that sent the visitor to the sidelines with a slight head injury.
Warford, who runs like he's dashing through rush-hour traffic, was The Rock's best player in the entertaining match. His place-kicking was emphatic, powerful and flawless.
"We don't get to play teams from England very often so it's nice to play against them," said Warford.
"I think we lost because, at the point of contact, we got over-rucked and fell on our back foot and it led to penalties."
The host team, which played well enough to win, were on the attack when the final whistle sounded.
"We've got a lot of speed, but we need to be better with our skills," added Warford, who said the friendly was good preparation for the Atlantic and national championships later this summer.
The visiting coaching staff was obviously pleased with the result.
"I thought it was going to be pretty physical and it was," Kelly College assistant coach Lloyd Colin said with a smile.
"It was a really good game and I'm proud of the boys,
"We haven't played that much together, but the longer we played, the better we got. It was a great game and I think we deserved to win."
The visitors looked rusty in the opening 10 minutes which is understandable. As Colin explained prior to the start of the match, they haven't played any "contact games" for about six months.
This is Kelly College's off-season. The team's regular season runs September to Christmas and if the team "has a good Cup run," they'll play close to 25 matches during that time, Colin said.
Colin said the private school team tours about every two years and have been to Italy, Ireland and Southern Africa. Kelly College also has an exchange program with an Australian school and some of the players train Down Under during the English off-season. This is the school's first tour of Canada.
It's not all about rugby during the Newfoundland visit.
The players got out to Cape Spear, Signal Hill and Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove and did some whale watching earlier this week.
The tourists will play Newfoundland's under-17 team Friday at 6 p.m. at Swilers.
The Canadian tour continues next week with matches in Ottawa, Bellville and Toronto.