Three excellent second half tries were enough for Cranleigh to see off the Stowe challenge in the magnificent grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London.
The location and the late afternoon kick off had been deliberately chosen to allow as many of the numerous parents and alumni that work nearby as possible to be able attend the game and it worked perfectly, with an excellent crowd gathered around the to watch the game play out.
Unfortunately though the magnificent location does have one downside, a very cramped pitch, and this narrow pitch was to have quite an effect on the first half of this game.
It was played with a good tempo and both sides looked dangerous and very willing to attack, however the narrow pitch allowed both sides to drift out quite comfortably in defence, shutting down any space.
Stowe had the best of the opening period, buoyed perhaps by their recent return to form after beating Oundle and Warwick, but Cranleigh defended well in their 22 and it was they who had the only genuine try scoring chance of the first half.
It came as their excellent inside centre, who was having a brief sojourn at scrum half, deftly dinked the ball out to the left wing with the outside of his right foot. His winger duly collected the ball in mid-air only to be scythed down while still off the ground, or so it seemed to a great many spectators, however the referee adjudged it to be a fair tackle and soon whistled for half time.
0-0 at the break did not really do either side any justice though, it had been an excellent watch but space had simply been at too much of a premium for either side to capitalise on their good play.
The half time break seemed to do Stowe some good though, realised that they had to bash away with the forwards before they could unleash their backs.
This was allowing their fly half to begin to have an increasing influence on the game and though he missed an early second half penalty he soon made up for it with a tough conversion following an excellent Stowe try in the far right had corner as they drove over in numbers, a deserved score given their start to the half.
However that was to prove to really be the end of the Stowe resistance, there was the occasional glimmer but from that point the play of Cranleighâ€™s forwards and their outside centre in particular proved to be irresistible.
Clearly Cranleigh had realised that they need to get their forwards to start sucking in defenders in the fringes before moving the ball wider, rather than move the ball away though a tactic to try to burst through in the centre of the field had clearly emerged and in the their number 13 they had the perfect man for the job.
Three times they scored in the second half, and three times his dancing feet and powerful leg drives were they key to the scores, once charging through to set up field position for his tighthead to score another to set up the position for his forwards to power over the line for the openside to score, and one lovely score for himself.
His own try was a lovely finish, cutting back against the grain of the defence before driving through with great power to slide under the posts.
He almost repeated the exact same score but this one was just held up, however from the resultant scrum Cranleigh set up a couple of rucks on the far right hand touchline before their tighthead came cutting back against the defence to rumble over. His fly half hit the post with the conversion but the previous conversion meant that the score was now 12-7.
The final telling combination from the in form centre was a searing break from just inside his own gliding though some would be tacklers before powerfully dragging some with him into the Stowe 22, with that momentum Cranleigh surged deeper into Stowe territory before their forwards took over through a series of heavy drives before touching down. Their fly half converted to make it 19-7, which it remained until the final whistle.
It was a magnificent game of rugby and an equally magnificent setting, to have come up with a concept that makes it so easy for parents and alumni to these teams play was also brilliantly refreshing and something that all schools should certainly consider trying to replicate.
As for the rugby, it was a thoroughly even and exciting contest for the majority of the game but in the final quarter Cranleigh really came a live. It was, in all senses, a magnificent game to be at.
Final Score: Cranleigh 19-7 Stowe