An evening at the rebranded Principality Stadium – forever The Millennium in my books – was followed by a drive to Allianz Park. A place I spend a lot of time at as a Saracens season ticket. Saracens themselves were taking part in a thrilling 36 All draw against Sale Sharks in Salford; I was at the ground to watch the semi-finals of the U18’s NatWest Schools Cup.
I didn’t take notes during the games so this really is going to be more of a Phlog than a Blog. With an offer to the schools taking part at the end.
The first match was between Warwick School and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Wakefield. The 2 schools had some history going into the match – with QEGS the Yorkshire school having made 8 NatWest Schools Cup Finals, losing in 6 of those including losses to Warwick in 2013 and 2014, they overcame those defeats to beat the same Warwick in the U15’s Cup in 2015.
At U18’s level Warwick won the Cup in 2007 and have had one final and two semi-final appearances in the last four years.
I missed the start of the match but arrived to see a couple of very strange decisions by the officials – A QEGS player was bundled into touch with the ball in his hands, but the throw in was awarded to his team and similarly a blatant knock on saw the scrum put in awarded to the wrong team. That seemed to be something of a theme throughout the game.
This was a tough match, it sometimes amazes me that I’m watching school boys when I watch rugby at U18 and under. To a degree Warwick were beaten by the physicality of their opposition. The end result of the match was Warwick 12 QEGS 21
Semi-Final 2 featured Bromsgrove School and Whitgift School. The Midlands School had a spell of sitting out the NatWest Schools Cup for 9 season re-entering in 2014 – they lifted the trophy at Twickenham in 2015.
Their cup run had been an impressive one as they’d made the semi-final stage unbeaten, winning all of their fixture by at least two scores, they amassed 254 points in six matches.
Whitgift School were making their first appearance in the semi-finals since 2011, when the team featured one Elliot Daly of Wasps and England. That team went on to win the final at Twickenham making it two in a row.
Whitgift’s journey to Allianz Park had been a mixed one, with big wins away against Richmond College and Harris Sixth Form. Their final round match and quarter final were both close, hard fought games with a 3 point win. Their defence had been strong throughout the tournament.
Again I’m not going to go into detail on the match – but I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an effective rolling maul. Bromsgrove were literally unstoppable! I lost count of how many tries they scored trundling the ball to the try line, but it seemed that every time they were anywhere near the line they scored.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Whitgift were literally blown away. Bromsgrove scored 50 points. One heartening thing for the school from Croydon was that they didn’t give up and scored 24 points of their own, with some good running from their backs, who once they got their hands on the ball showed what they’re capable of.
The final score was Bromsgrove School 50 Whitgift School 24. And so Twickenham awaits for the holders.
And so to the wonderful possibility on offer as the final approaches – NatWest are giving 30 lucky schoolboys who play in the Cup the chance to win an Academy Day at Pennyhill Park. To celebrate and raise awareness of this they have captured a really fun bit of content using current England Rugby players Chris Robshaw, Anthony Watson and Matt Mullan. It plays on training techniques and using what they learnt in school to knock a drone out of the sky.
The England internationals, who represented Millfield School, St George’s College Weybridge and Bromsgrove School respectively, show that what they learnt at school still holds them in good stead. Robshaw, Watson and Mullan all competed in the NatWest Schools Cup on their pathway to the elite England squad, and expect to see similar skills on show at this year’s final at Twickenham in two weeks’ time.
30 players from the 2016 NatWest Schools Cup are being offered the chance to attend an Academy Day at England’s training base. Go to www.englandrugby.com/natwestschoolscup to register or follow NatWest Rugby for more information.