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St Joseph’s win dramatic St Joseph’s Festival

St Joseph’s College thrillingly won their own St Joseph’s Festival today for the first time since 2010 and only the third time in the tournament’s 27 year history.

The last time that they won a certain Alex Day was in their line up and there were a few faces in this team that look to be on a similar career path, not least captain and number eight Lewis Ludlum.

Ludlum was named joint player of the tournament, along with fly half Dan Lewis. Lewis was indeed equally impressive, showing class with the boot and great distribution skills throughout. In changeable conditions he was an invaluable asset.

His award was collected by Autin Beckett though and there was perhaps no more fitting man to do so, Beckett scored some scorching tries, including brilliant finishes in the final and what effectively became a semi final against Dulwich.

The final itself reflected the day’s play perfectly; St Joseph’s had reached it in relative comfort, winning their three group games to reach the final with an unbeaten record.

In it they would face RGS High Wycombe who had arrived in the final via the most dramatic of circumstances.

RGS had finished second in their pool yesterday and were drawn alongside Bedford, Millfield, and Solihull today. Millfield were the strong favourites but RGS shocked them in the opening game of the group, winning 8-6. This blasted the group apart and by the final round each had side had played won and lost one.

This meant that the winner would be decided on a try count, and Millfield jumped to a head start, beating Bedford by two tries. RGS had been down by a try to Solihull but had bounced back with two of their own, leaving the destination of the group right on the edge.

Agonisingly for Millfield and quite brilliantly for RGS almost through sheer force of will they managed to score a third try in the last play of the game to snatch their place in the final at the death.

The Plate tournament had not been quite so dramatic, however the final two group games were winner takes all affairs, first with Whitchurch meeting Portsmouth Grammar School and then RGS Newcastle facing Stamford.

Both games were settled by a solitary score, with RGS Newcastle beating Stamford by a try and Portsmouth taking an even finer victory, 3-0 through a penalty.

Heading into the Plate final RGS were heavy favourites and an early try seemed to justify that tag. However Portsmouth responded brilliantly, playing with an incredible amount of passion. There were some lucky escapes of course but they held on valiantly and capitalised brilliantly on two lapses of discipline to land a pair of penalties to earn a 6-5 win, a superb achievement.

The day really was only about one thing though and that was the main final, that is in no way a slur on any of the other games, merely a reflection on the fact that with such an enormous home crowd and having put such extraordinary pressure on themselves, St Joseph’s had given this final an even greater resonance than usual.

The noise as the sides came out was deafening, as our video clip shows, and St Joseph’s responded instantly, putting pressure on RGS right from the off. George Wacokecoke seized upon a high ball with a grace usually reserved for dance halls of the 1950’s, the momentum it generated was enormous though and the atmosphere intoxicating. It was inevitable when just a couple of phases later Beckett scored his sizzling try.

RGS hit back early in the second half through a try from Max Roddick but from that point on though the game took on the persona of the rest of the day’s play and became an incredibly tight contest with both sides threatening at varying points but unable to cross the whitewash.

The St Joseph’s did land two penalties through the exceptional Lewis though to give them an 11-5 lead. This would not have been the 2013 St Joseph’s Festival without another twist though and sure enough RGS were happy to provide one, in the closing stages of the game, following some lovely hands from Ben Woods early in the move, Max Roddick again found himself flying over in the corner.

It proved to be too far in the corner to convert though and moments later Lewis had the ball in his hands and, fittingly, he was the man to boot the ball from the pitch for the final whistle and an 11-10 victory for the hosts – sparking jubilant scenes from the many hundreds of joyous, and visibly emotional, St Joseph’s fans.

All that was left for the neutral was to doff your cap to a quite exceptional tournament and a deserved and delighted winner.

*There will be further reviews of the 2013 St Joseph’s Festival tomorrow.

Trophy Results:

Final: St Joseph’s 11-10 RGS High Worcester

Group A

St Joseph’s 11-6 John Fisher

Dulwich 11-10 Brighton

St Joseph’s 15-5 Brighton

Dulwich 12-10 John Fisher

St Joseph’s 26-7 Dulwich

Brighton 12-19 John Fisher

Group B

Bedford 0-7 Solihull

Millfield 6-8 RGS High Wycombe

Bedford 15-0 RGS High Wycombe

Millfield 7-3 Solihull

Bedford 0-10 Millfield

RGS High Wycombe 19-5 Solihull

*RGS High Wycombe qualified on try count.

Plate Results:

Final: Portsmouth Grammar School 6-5 RGS Newcastle

Group W

Whitchurch 10-7 Abingdon

Portsmouth GS 15-10 Merchiston Castle

Whitchurch 12-5 Merchiston Castle

Portsmouth GS 12-10 Abingdon

Whitchurch 0-3 Portsmouth GS

Merchiston Castle 22-0 Abingdon

Group X

RGS Newcastle 15-0 Belfast RA

Stamford 8-5 Old Swinford Hospital

RGS Newcastle 20-0 Old Swinford Hospital

Stamford 35-0 Belfast RA

RGS Newcastle 7-0 Stamford

Old Swinford Hospital 7-5 Belfast RA

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