The 27th annual St Josephâ€™s Festival was a brilliant tournament but no tournament would be complete without a few awards so here a few of our efforts.
In the interests of clarity, we should point out that the below awards are as adjudged by us. They are not the official awards and are solely chosen by us.
Team of the Tournament
The team of the tournament simply has to be the hosts, St Josephâ€™s College. Many others can lay a good claim but the hosts produced some of the most exciting rugby of the tournament, won the tournament, and coped with the pressure and expectation that they had heaped on themselves quite brilliantly. The emotion shown at the end of the final showed not just how much it meant but how hard they had worked for it.
Player of the Tournament
Plenty of contenders for this, Ali Neden of Dulwich College impressed us immensely, his running from full back was outstanding, as was Tom Whiteleyâ€™s for Millfield until injuries forced him to fill in at scrum half.
Another Millfieldian, John Radford, also impressed; his work rate in the back row was exceptional. RGS High Wycombeâ€™s front row were among the best in the tournament while in Ben Wood and Max Roddick they had some standout backs.
Ollie Lyons stood out for Bedford with his powerful running game, while Paddy McDuell ran the show at ten, in similar fashion to Solihullâ€™s pivot too.
St Josephâ€™s had a number of contenders too, Austin Beckett on the wing was possibly the most potent finisher on show, while Lewis Ludlum (who shared the official award) was exceptional. His defence was as good as anything on show and he was clearly a rallying point for his side.
For us the player of the tournament though was the other joint winner, St Josephâ€™s fly half Dan Lewis.
Lewis played with great maturity, running well, distributing well, and kicking magnificently. We were particularly impressed by his ability to get the ball away when under extreme pressure by pulling it away and making his contact point behind the body â€“ a skill that only a small number of fly halves develop in their school days.
Try of the Tournament
This award was officially given for a brilliant St Josephâ€™s try following a cross-field kick from Dan Lewis, it was certainly an exceptional try but it was one of many.
Tom Whiteley scored a lovely solo effort of the first day for Millfield, he was then topped on day two by one of his teammates, Darren Atkins, who won the match for them against Solihull with a length of the field effort with his team looking down and out.
Dulwichâ€™s Ali Neden produced three efforts that were worthy of mention, two against John Fisher and a further one against St Josephâ€™s, indeed he might have had a fourth were it not for one eagle eyed touch judge.
St Josephâ€™s Austin Beckett produced a couple of beauties too, while George Wacokecoke scored a cracker to seal victory over Dulwich and send St Josephâ€™s into the final.
Our try of the tournament goes to Ali Neden though for his outstanding try to put Dulwich 12 points up against John Fisher. His pace and evasion skills were outstanding and it was a special moment to witness.
Match of the Tournament
Both the main final and the plate final were brilliant occasions and both were incredibly intense, each final was won by just a point and in any normal tournament they might have taken this gong.
However this was not a normal tournament, it was one of the most dramatic there has been and it threw out some special matches.
Watching Merchiston Castle seal their first win of the tournament in their final game by beating Abingdon was a good moment but RGS Newcastleâ€™s 7-0 victory over Stamford and Portsmouth Grammar Schools 3-0 win over Whitchurch were the outstanding games of the Plate, both were for places in the final and both were unbelievably tense.
For tension and drama though Group B in the plate was the place to be and it is from there that our match of the tournament took place.
Bedford, Millfield, RGS High Wycombe and Solihull all went into the final round level on points so the team to progress to the final would need to do so by scoring the most tries.
Bedford v Millfield kicked off first with Millfield scoring two tries to win it 10-0. At the final whistle RGS High Wycombe and Solihull were still playing with RGS leading and having scored two tries. This meant that the finalist would be decided on points difference as the try score was equal too.
In what is surely one of the most dramatic moments in St Josephâ€™s Festival history though, RGS worked their way up the field and deep into injury they scored a try, sending their players into delirium and Millfield into despair.
It was a thrilling end to a thrilling game; our Match of the Tournament is RGS High Wycombe v Solihull
That moment at the end of the RGS v Solihull game was pretty special, as was the moment that George Wacokecoke scored to seal St Josephâ€™s place in the final.
The final itself produced some thrilling moments too, the atmosphere as St Josephâ€™s ran out was amazing (to see it, click here), while Beckettâ€™s opening try was a special moment too.
The crowning moment of the tournament though was undoubtedly when the final whistle blew to confirm St Josephâ€™s as champions, hundreds of spectators stormed the pitch, hoisting their heroic players onto their shoulders in a mass explosion of emotion and jubilation.
Kick of the Tournament
The four penalties in the two finals all took some serious bottle, as did Portstmouthâ€™s in the semi final, while Stamford also nailed two decisive kicks across the two days.
For us there was one standout kick for this award though, Ben Woodâ€™sÂ effort at the final whistle against Millfield for RGS High Wycombe. His side had been 6-0 down and with seconds to go it looked like their tournament hopes were dying.
A late try got them to within a point leaving Wood with the most challenging of touchline conversions to take the win. We hope he will forgive us for saying it but aesthetically it was not the most memorable kick but it was that which made it so special.
As it wobbled and weaved from his boot the collective RGS heads dropped, victory was Millfieldâ€™s, however it defied all the usual laws of gravity to bisect the uprights and send the RGS faithful into wild celebrations, with Woods the hero in their tale. Without that kick the drama that unfolded later in the day just would not have happened, a kick that transformed the tournament.
As they say, it is not how it gets over that counts, just that it does.
We should point out that Wood kicked majestically all weekend, this kick just happened to be tournament defining.
This can only go to one team, heading into day two Portsmouth Grammar School were not expected to be contesting the Plate final, let alone to win it. However they did brilliantly in the final and what was effectively a semi final against Whitchurch to frustrate their opponents and show some moments of real quality.
That they won the two games but a combined total of just four points only served to make it all the more special, such was the tension that it created.
We would love to hear if you agree with our awards and if not who you would give them to? Also, what other awards would you give out and who to?