Sherborne defy conditions to progress to the last 16 of the Daily Mail Cup

Sherborne 1st XV vs Bishop Wordsworth’s School Daily Mail Cup Round 6:

Sherborne 13 – Tries: Tom Edwards (2); Drop Goal: Jack Humphrey

Bishop Wordsworth’s School 5

In conditions that resembled a monsoon, the 1st XV showed their passion and desire to settle an old score. Bishops arrived having had an unbeaten season and Sherborne came together as a XV for the first time since mid-November following the premature end to our regular season thanks to the illness.

With a floodlight session on Wednesday night, held at Sherborne Rugby Club, and a session on Thursday in the games lesson, it quickly became obvious that we were somewhat rusty.

Injuries to David Buck (U6m) and Max Ritchie (L6c) had not healed in time for the match and Fred Cane’s (L6m) flu virus meant that there were debuts in this massive game for Cameron Harrison (L6e), Eliot Woodhead (U6g) and Patrick Swan (L6m).

From the kick-off it became obvious to all involved, and those who chose to venture out to watch the game, that the weather was unsure and that this was going to be a real war of attrition.

The Sherborne forward pack quickly showed their dominance at the set piece but the Bishops’ back-row initially had the upper hand at the breakdown. Controlling the ball in the conditions was extremely difficult but Edward Coulson (L6m) quickly demonstrated the class that has seen him start the first two Academy games for Bath over the Christmas period.

His kicking out of hand ensured that any attempt by Bishops to relieve pressure was short lived. He continued to force the Bishop team back into their own 22 while excellent set piece pressure from the whole pack at scrum time and Jack Deverell (L6f) in the line-out, provided Sherborne with an early opportunity to score with a scrum on the Bishops 5m line.

Captain Will Martin (U6a), picked up from 8 and came up just short but two further drives saw Tom Edwards (U6a), showing why he has recently been selected for the South West England U18 squad, cross for the first score of the game. The try was not converted.

From the initial drive Will Martin suffered a bang to the head and his part in the game was over, Max Nott-Bower (L6m) replaced him. Sherborne continued to dominate the first half but as the rain continued to batter both the players and the pitch, the number of errors meant that there was very little flow to the game.

Coulson’s tactical kicking continued to keep Sherborne moving forward and forced the Bishop XV to have to try and play from deep, leaving Sherborne to go into half time 5-0 up.

During the break it became obvious that not only would the team have the physicality of the game to deal with, but also the effects of the weather. Henry Crane (5c) had played a fantastic role at 9, again demonstrating why he has been selected for the Southwest u16 squad. He box kicked us into great field position and supplied Coulson with service which in the conditions was well above what the fly-half could have wished for.

The weather and the break in the game was enough to see Crane’s game come to an end as he displayed symptoms that bordered on him being hypothermic. Elliot Woodhead (U6g) stepped into his first ever 1st XV game and would have to play the game of his career to ensure that Coulson could continue to direct our play and that our forwards maintained their focus and superiority. He did this without a suggestion that he was a novice playing at this level.

The early exchanges of the half saw both teams looking to secure good field position and an early handling error provided Sherborne with the field position they wanted to keep the Bishops XV under pressure.

Some strong runs from Edwards, now playing at 8, supported by Buckney (U6m) and Harris (5g) resulted in Sherborne being held up over the line. Bishops turned the ball over following the scrum and thought they had done enough to clear their lines as the Bishops fly-half kicked the ball out towards the half way line.

What happened next beggared belief in view of the conditions and pitch which now replicated a scene from the Somme rather than the plush Upper that most associate with the 1st XV pitch.

Jack Humphrey (L6f), playing at full back, collected the ball on the bounce, checked and calmly slotted a 35m drop goal straight between the uprights to give Sherborne a two score lead which was certainly deserved.

At 8-0 Bishops had to throw caution to the wind but their kickers found the conditions very difficult, something that still failed to register with Coulson and now Humphrey who between them kept Bishops pinned into their own half.

A serious injury to the Bishop’s man of the match, their open-side, resulted in two more Sherborne players having to leave the pitch as the cold took a grip. Freddie Wright (U6m) had chased kicks all afternoon and his pressure and defence helped keep Bishops pinned in but the cold eventually became too much as he left the field shaking, yet another player close to suffering from hypothermia.

He was followed by Coulson not long after as the weather continued to batter both teams. Wright was replaced by Ben Nott (U6c), who made his second visit to the field following an appearance in the first half when King (U6f) had to leave the field temporarily. Coulson was replaced by Hughes-Onslow (5c).

The second Sherborne try indicated how much control the forwards had on the game. Following a clearance kick by Bishops and an initial carry by Humphrey, the forwards got control of the ball on the Bishops 22m. In a calm and controlled manner, lasting over 2 minutes and 22 phases of play, the forwards picked and drove their way over with Edwards crossing for his second try.

Any regulars from the Shed at Gloucester or Welford Road would have appreciated the magnificent effort and control that was required to secure the winning score! I even saw Mr Davis with a smile on his face; was it that this reminded him of his England pack from the 80’s?!

Despite now needing to score three times, Bishops were still not going to accept that their unbeaten season was going to end. Their endeavours were rewarded with a try 5 minutes from time but despite one or two nervous moments towards the end of the game, Sherborne were never going to let their lead slip.

The final whistle brought an end to what could only be described as a real battle, the Upper certainly supported this. As a Northerner, I have endured many a cold and wet Saturday afternoon but never conditions that saw rain, wind and freezing temperatures last throughout a whole game.

As a neutral you would be unable to do anything but watch in awe as some 40 young men managed to put on a display that should never have reached the levels of performance that were witnessed. My message to all the Sherborne squad involved in today’s match is simple, today you really came together as a TEAM and proved what you are capable of achieving on the rugby field!

Sherbornes’ reward is now a place in the last 16 in the Daily Mail Cup against Marlborough College, another team that beat us earlier in the year in a very tight game at Newbury RFC. The game is scheduled to be at Sherborne on Wednesday 16th January but with frost forecast for the week we will once again be controlled by the weather, and the Southern population claim it’s grim up North!

To the Sherborne 22, today you really did become men of distinction, I was proud of everyone one and we are now 3 matches from a Twickenham Final. I also want to thank all those parents and pupils who came and supported the XV on the Upper. Your support was greatly appreciated and kept the teams spirits up throughout!

Report by David Muckalt (Sherborne Head of Rugby)

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