Cheltenham pulled off a magnificent late comeback yesterday to avoid a painful defeat against local rivals Pateâ€™s Grammar School.
Pateâ€™s led 13-7 going into the final play of the game with possession deep in the Cheltenham half. Cheltenham pounced from a late scrum though to march all the way upfield with a sense of calm and authority as they slowly set up the opportunity for their outside centre to go crashing over.
It was still all left to do for their fly half though with his conversion required to win the game. He took is time over it but caught it with the cleanest of strikes to send the home crowd wild with celebration, giving Cheltenham a 14-13 victory.
The truth is though that for the majority of this match the game was Pateâ€™s to lose. An early try had given them so much confidence and momentum, whilst the performance of their outstanding full back nullified any Cheltenham kick threat.
It forced Cheltenham into running when they perhaps would rather not have, all that did though was allow Pateâ€™s openside, clearly a terrific player, to snaffle any ball that came his way.
Only great cover defending prevented Pateâ€™s from adding another couple of scores in the first half, with one tackle on their tighthead preventing a certain try after he had intercepted the ball on the 22. There are few better sights in rugby that a tighthead prop intercepting and charging for the line, it is that look of shock, joy, and fear all rolled into one.
Pateâ€™s did manage a penalty to give them a 10-0 lead at the break but you sensed that they would require more as Cheltenham would inevitably find their feet at some point and create some momentum of their own.
Pateâ€™s began the second half with plenty of ball but spurned kickable penalties in pursuit of more tries. It was Cheltenham who were to be the next scorers though as they slowly began to build some momentum, pinning Pateâ€™s into their own 22.
A useful scrum in the centre field allowed them to piece together a lovely move with saw their right winger to score in the corner. A tough conversion followed and it was made tougher as the kickerâ€™s standing foot slipped, it was to make no difference though as the ball sailed through to leave just a three point margin.
What seemed like a disaster was soon to follow for the home side though as their loosehead was sin binned for back chat having been warned about it twice already. Pateâ€™s took the three points from the penalty for a six point lead, and with less than ten minutes to go Cheltenham would have to win it with 14 â€“ a tall order.
All it did though was serve to make the drama of the final play comeback all the more brilliant. It is a rare thing at any level to see a side cover almost the length of the field through phase play but that was what Cheltenham did, showing great courage and determination to seal the winning score.
It was a tough defeat for Pateâ€™s who were the better side for much of the game, but it was a true show of character and skill under pressure form Cheltenham to manage to find the winning score.
Final Score: Cheltenham College 14-13 Pateâ€™s Grammar School