A NatWest Schools London and South East A final between Whitgift School and St Joseph’s College saw me travelling to Croydon to watch the game on a rainy/windy afternoon. The prize would be to be crowned Champions of the area and a place in the Quarter Finals of the NatWest Cup. The ultimate prize would be a place in the Final at Twickenham.
I arrived early so was able to watch both teams warming up – it was very hard to believe that these were schoolboys 18 or under and as has been the way when I’ve watched this age group their skill and physicality belied their tender years.
The first half was a very close affair, with the conditions on the day it was always going to be a tight game. St Joseph’s had the advantage of playing ‘downhill’ (a slight exaggeration) in the first half and were first on the scoreboard when they were awarded a penalty for obstruction as the ball was leaving the scrum. Adrian Sanday playing at 13 stepped up and slotted the ball over the posts.
St Joseph’s added a try less than 2 minutes later as Sanday broke through after receiving the ball from a scrum, he passed to Jacob Dormer, who made ground before passing to Maxwell Taylor-Calver (or Davis as the commentator is saying) who switched the ball back inside to Dormer as he was tackled. Dormer ran in to score an impressive try. Sanday was unable to add the extras but the visitors were ahead by 8.
I’m re-watcing the match online and it’s interesting to know that Elliot Daly is a former Whitgift student, I knew Danny Cipriani had attended the school in South Croydon – they know how to produce exciting backs!
In attritional conditions Whitgift hit back, battering the St Joseph’s defence, they were rewarded with a penalty, the referee had a good game overall but I’m inclined to agree with the commentator that this was a harsh decision. However penalty given was missed by Sam Morley – with the conditions there were no straight forward kicks
Whitgift went the same route again, in spite of backs in space, with a different result this time, the whistle being blown in favour of the visitors. Whitgift won the ball from the lineout so went back on the attack, one of the backs Alex Hogg, showed the benefits of being a 6ft 4 Centre with speed as he broke through on 2 occasions making territory for his team. Whitgift were hesitant in their decision making and lost the ball as they went the forwards route again.
Toby Wright showed his evasion skills making good ground after receiving the ball from Cameron Wilkins from the base of the scrum, St Joseph’s were penalised for offside, Morley set himself the task of a wide angled kick into the wind, the kick was successful this time, reward for the pressure Whitgift had been piling on.
I’d judge that St Joseph’s were lucky not to see yellow when a stray boot hit Toby Wright in the head, leaving him prone for a while. The incident was careless rather than intentional, but 10 minutes to sit and think about it may have been in order. I might also question the decision to allow Wright to continue without a HIA rest.
Funsho Ajayi caused the very vocal crowd to shout even louder than they had been when he took a ball deep in his own half, evading tacklers to make good ground. However in spite of plenty of pressure from the home team they couldn’t add to the score. The teams went in at half time with the score on Whitgift 3 St Joseph’s 8.
The second half saw some attritional rugby with Whitgift doing everything they could to close the gap. A schoolboy error (literally) saw St Joseph’s miss touch with a penalty kick giving Ajayi a chance to thrill the crowd again with his very tidy feet. Hogg found himself in possession again, after juggling the ball he broke through the defence again, found the slippery ball doing its own thing again he lost possession – it was that sort of day!
Whitgift closed the gap with a second penalty scored by Morley – Alex Peterson had held the ball when Santos Geldenhuys playing at 7 pounced on his as the ball came out of a scrum. The gap was closed to 2.
St Joseph’s lost their captain, Sam Easton for 7 minutes, a team yellow I’d judge as his team were penalised for offside. Whitgift stormed over the line but were held up by teh defence, admirable with 14 against 15. No points were conceded with Easton off the pitch.
The game was decided by the Whitgift captain Sid Holland, he scored a superb try after taking the ball from Wright, running low through the defenders to score the try that won the game! The kick was unsuccessful but the score finished on Whitgift School 11 St Joseph’s College 8. It was a really entertaining match in awful conditions, on balance I’d say the best team on the day won.