RGS finally win after defensive masterclass

Two of the top sides in the country met on Saturday as northern giants Barnard Castle and RGS Newcastle went head to head. Historically they have been two of the strongest sides in the country with five Daily Mail Cup final appearances between them.

Neither has had the best of starts this season though; with RGS coming into the game without a victory, though a top display against Sedbergh had given them cause for optimism.

Barnard Castle had fared little better though, but a victory at Yarm had softened some of the hurt after a heavy defeat by Durham.

The game was destined to be a hard fought one, and when the weather forecast came in, a free flowing game of end to end rugby became almost impossibility.

What it did create though was the perfect setting for these two great school sides to tough it out and demonstrate the abilities, both mental and physical of their side.

RGS Number 8 Will Harrison reports:

The afternoon game kicked off with a good start from Barnard Castle, kicking deep into the RGS half due to a strong wind from the Barnard Castle end. This put RGS under pressure but a good clearance kick from Oli Lawton relieved the situation.


A penalty was given just in front of the RGS posts due to an offside offence and so an easy penalty kick put Castle in the lead. RGS retaliated to the 3 points soon after, testing the Barnard Castle back line’s defensive skills and forcing a penalty within distance of the posts.


Tom Penny put RGS level with Barnard Castle with a great kick into the gale force wind but also the Barnard Castle Number 8 was binned for purposely slowing down the play.


Soon after equalising Chris Stothard made a fantastic run from inside the RGS 22 to the opposition 22, keeping the attack coming and the RGS attack kept the opposition on their toes, which resulted in another penalty close to the posts, giving Tom Penny another chance to kick at goal and put RGS in front of the hosts.


Barnard Castle then came back strong, putting RGS on the back foot for a period of time and almost scoring but great defence from Fred Thomas and Tom Penny put the threat into touch. 


A good attack later on in the game resulted in Barnard scoring the first try, with offloads that no team could defend against. The game was equally matched after that, a period of time with no points being scored until an impressive attack from Barnard Castle put RGS under pressure and a penalty was given, with Tom Sheeran being binned for slowing the play down, leaving the score at half time 6-10.


Soon after the start of the second half, RGS won a penalty on the half way line by forcing the Barnard Castle players to concede penalties due to good play. With the wind behind him, Tom Penny successfully scored 3 points with an impressive kick from the half way line and this put RGS within 1 point of the hosts.


A great attack by RGS kept Barnard Castle under pressure, deep within their half and eventually the constant pressure from the forward runners resulted in a try, scored by Fred Thomas running a great line and breaking through a gap.


RGS could have scored another try soon after but Barnard Castle counter rucked and put RGS on the back foot. RGS held out fantastically against the strong opposition attack, with a solid defence from the entire team.


Ed Slack in particular was defending well, but the hits took the toll and Tom Penny had to be replaced by Mankin following a heavy blow to the head. This caused a bit of a positional shake up, with Chris Stothard moving into the centres and Joe Young moving to back row. 


All of this pressure eventually led to a penalty on the RGS line, giving Barnard Castle a chance to take the lead but they could not break through the solid RGS line and the ball was turned over.


In the late stages of the game RGS had Joe Young binned due to a bad decision from the referee, who believed he was handling on the floor but video analysis shows no such offence.


A final penalty gave RGS the win, with Oli Lawton placing the kick into touch to end the fierce contest and to give RGS the first victory of the season.


Final Score: RGS Newcastle 16-13 Barnard Castle

For RGS the relief and joy at getting their first victory of the season will be huge, they have known all along that they are a good side with quality players but a few poor performances had sapped them of confidence.

That tough display against Sedbergh must not be discounted either, to have played so well and kept that game so tight gave them the confidence as this game came down to the wire that they could tough it out.

Barnard Castle, meanwhile, will be disappointed, but when they look back at this match they can be proud. They threw everything at RGS and it was only the supreme quality of their defence that kept them out.

If Barnard Castle continue to attack with wave after wave like that, most other opposition will yield points. It is that defensive strength which RGS must take huge credit for, and go into the rest of season with confidence, knowing they can shut most sides out.

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