Wellington College just edged a supreme battle of wills at Broadstreet RFC to beat Sedbergh 14-10.
The sheer intensity of the game marked out just how good both of these sides are, there was plenty of quality play on show but it was that sustained intensity that marked this match apart from so many others.
The pace of the game was quite extraordinary too, and was a testament to the fitness levels of the two sets of players. Sedbergh were particularly keen to keep the tempo up, seeming to tap and go from every single penalty awarded, and there were a fair few. They were determined to spread the ball wide and use their excellent wide men as often as possible, with the peerless Rob Stevenson particularly dangerous.
Stevensonâ€™s attacking threat was to be rewarded with the only score of the first half. It came after captain James Christie received the ball from the base of the scrum at 9, he worked his way around the blindside and drew in the defence before releasing his speed merchant on the wing, a classic try.
Wellington responded well to that though and following the try they entered their most consistent spell of pressure of the, with their forwards stepping up brilliantly to the muscular Sedbergh challenge, with Wellingtonâ€™s Ed Forshaw making a particularly excellent nuisance of himself.
Sedbergh were clearly full of confidence, winning every match this season bar that trip to Abu Dhabi to play Millfield will do that for you, and they threw themselves at any Wellington attackers to close out the half with a 5-0 lead.
At the break the was a nervous atmosphere among the Wellington crowd, their only two losses in this otherwise brilliant season of theirs had come in tight, low scoring games like this, like their defeat to Hampton at the weekend. There were fears that they might be about to see a repeat.
It is to the Wellington players credit that those thoughts were nowhere near their own minds though as they began the second half in the best possible manner, scoring a morale boosting try through Conor Dolan.
Dolan barged his way through the proverbial brick wall after some equally powerful running from his forwards. It gave number eight Will Wilson a simple conversion to give his side a 7-5 lead, ramping up the intensity and the atmosphere another notch.
Wilsonâ€™s joy at giving his side the lead was to be short lived though as he was soon sin binned after repeated Wellington infringements. It seemed not to matter though as Wellington kept up the pressure on Sedbergh.
Despite this though, Wellington could not capitalise, superb breaks from Sed Adeniran-Olule and Tom Parton were not finished off and chance for to extend their lead through a penalty just went by.
All the while that this was going on though there was always the sense that Sedbergh could do something spectacular. Despite enjoying less possession than in the first half their backs still looked electrifying whenever they got the ball, and with this admirable ambition to run almost every penalty they had people out of their seats on a number of occasions.
It was on one such foray though that the decisive blow of the game was landed. Turnover ball in the midfield, presumably from Forshaw â€“ he was at everything, saw Tom Parton go haring off down the right wing before feeding the ball inside to Matt Williams for the try, just seconds after Sedbergh had been on the attack.
Wilsonâ€™s conversion made it 14-5, meaning that Sedbergh had to score twice with little time left on the clock. However they were undeterred by the challenge and set about what was probably their most fluid period of the match, increasingly bringing their pack into their attacking game, both in tight and out wide.
Christie was buzzing around and the pace that his side were playing at seemed sure to tell at some point, the constant stream of attacking play would have been tough for any side to ride out.
Wellington were doing an admirable job though, however their nemesis of the first half, Stevenson, was to be the man to breach their defence again. This time he rounded a couple of would be tacklers before diving over in the corner.
Unfortunately for the away side a missed conversion and less than five minutes on the clock meant that in order to win Sedbergh were going to have to score a try, at 14-10 a penalty just would not be enough.
Belief was coursing through them though and they quickly returned to the Wellington 22, hammering away at the defensive line. Having watched the previous try play out there was an expectation growing that Sedbergh would find that elusive final score.
However Wellington defended brilliantly, and after some brilliant harrying at base of the ruck Ed Forshaw, who else, appeared with the loose ball to send Wellington flying down into the Sedbergh 22.
A penalty followed but for Wilson it was all about managing the clock and not the scoreboard for this one, though it was a mighty close effort, as Wellington managed to see out the game, winning a true schoolboy classic 14-10.
If ever there were a reason to watch school rugby then the sheer intensity and drama of this game was surely it.
Full Time: Wellington College 14-10 Sedbergh