Sedbergh scored three tries in a brilliant performance as they defeated Millfield 27-10 yesterday, securing second place in the Daily Mail Trophy in the process.
The game was the highlight and culmination of a fantastic day of sport between the two schools, a by product of which was a bumper crowd surrounding Millfieldâ€™s famous Jubilee/Gareth Edwards pitch.
The crowd had begun to build throughout the afternoon, giving the U14s who were on the pitch first probably the greatest atmosphere they have experienced, and by the time the 1st XVs kicked off they were at fever pitch.
Millfieldâ€™s 26-0 win over Sedbergh in Abu Dhabi earlier in the season was fresh in the minds of those watching but it was also clearly fresh in the minds of the Sedbergh team, who seemed determined to avenge that defeat.
That task was made to seem a little easier during the week as Millfieldâ€™s key 10-12 axis of captain Callum Sheedy and Adam Hastings were both ruled out.
However Matt Donaldson and Charlie Hyde stepped in admirably for the absent duo, with Donaldson particularly impressing. Usually a scrum half, Donaldson stepped into the outside half position and had the confidence to play with real freedom, with a crossfield kick for Charlie Hallâ€™s second half try particularly catching the eye.
Indeed in the early parts of the game Millfield seemed unaffected by these high profile absences, with Darren Atkins making some lung busting breaks and Alec Coombs carrying well as the home side dominated.
However it was Sedbergh who were to make the first impression on the scoreboard. They had had a couple of chances early on against the run of play, with their outstanding wing Robert Stevenson causing problems early on, but it was fitting that their eventual score came after a superb break from their full back Jonny McPhillips.
McPhillips had been a busy man in defence, and had been outstanding in that facet of play, but here with a chance to attack he burst through the Millfield defence and seared away before offloading for his flanker Charles Greene to score.
McPhillips converted the try and suddenly the game change, having been all Millfield bar a few Sedbergh flashes; Sedbergh now had all of the momentum. It was to get worse for Millfield as Charlie Hyde was forced off injured, forcing Director of Rugby John Mallett to further rejig his already rijigged midfield.
That shift in momentum and confusion in the Millfield ranks allowed Sedberghâ€™s Charles Moorby to surge through the Millfield defence, picking a brilliant line to go crashing through for Sedberghâ€™s second try.
McPhillips converted and soon added a penalty to give the away side a 17-0 lead, leaving the home crowd utterly stunned. They were soon back in full voice though, realising that their team needed their support if they were to get back into this one, and a Tom Whiteley penalty on the stroke of half time at least got the home side back on the scoreboard, making it 3-17 at the break.
In most games of school rugby you would say that that is effectively game over but with these two outstanding rugby teams and the history of this fixture everyone around that pitch sensed that there was more to come, and how right they were.
As the second half kicked off the tension was palpable as the volume of the home and away support was ramped up to eleven. Both were in full voice, knowing that every possible advantage they could give their sides could make the difference.
They admirably feel silent though as a Millfield gave away a penalty allowing McPhillips to extend Sedberghâ€™s lead to 20-3.
If ever there was a time for a response it was now, and Millfield provided the most admirable of responses, dominating possession for the bulk of the next fifteen minutes as they went in search of the next score, knowing that it would be a key one.
They surged through with their forwards, before Donaldson unleashed a pinpoint crossfield kick for Charlie Hall to go crashing over on the right hand side. Whiteley landed a tough conversion to bring the score to 10-20 and suddenly there was an air of belief emanating from the home side.
The score had come at a cost though as now Alec Coombes, playing at oustside centre, went down injured. Were it not so frustrating and unfortunate for the home side it would have been comical, as John Mallett could be seen frantically calling the 2nd XV coaches, desperately searching for someone to fill in in the centres for him.
The now almost unrecognisable midfield forced Millfield into a change of tactics. Anyone who has seen them this year will know that they favour a wide attacking game but an unfamiliar and untried backline forced them into a tight forward game.
You would not have known it was unfamiliar though as they battered away at the Sedbergh defence, with Jack Owlett and John Radford carrying particularly impressively. However if Millfieldâ€™s surge in momentum and possession was impressive, Sedberghâ€™s defensive response was magnificent.
Through a sustained period of Millfield pressure they gave away just two penalties, while openside Ralph Wellock was simply outstanding, tackling anyone and everyone. There is little that is more draining for a tight five forward than constantly making tackles around the fringes but that was what Sedberghâ€™s tight five did, denying Millfield any little half breaks in that area fantastically well.
They broke out on a couple of occasions and secured penalties, one of which saw Millfieldâ€™s Billy Reeves sent to the sin bin, but they could not quite turn difficult kicks into points.
With just over five minutes remaining the pressure was on Millfield to score quickly while they were still in the ascendency or they would run out of time, but still the Sedbergh defence held firm.
The sense was that there was still one more twist left in this game but what that twist turned out to be could have been guessed by nobody.
Millfield were on the attack just inside the Sedbergh half but the away side turned the ball over before moving it quickly to their left wing, Robert Kent. Still inside his own half, Kent had much to do but what he did do was magnificent, scoring one of the tries of the season, sparking pandemonium.
He began by dancing around a couple of would be tacklers before flying away down the touch line, showing simply too much pace for any defenders to stick with him. He then wickedly stepped back inside to go flying in under the posts, to give McPhillips an easy conversion to make it 27-10. It was a quite brilliant try, and a fitting way to decide this wonderful game of rugby.
Without question these are two of the very best teams in the country, capable of a level of intensity and performance that few others can match. This game was an ideal example of that, the intensity was sky high and the determination of both sets of players was clear for all to see.
Even better was the respect that each clearly has for the other side. After the game Sedbergh were completely magnanimous, describing Millfield as the best side they have faced, while Millfield were only too happy to admit that Sedbergh had been outstanding.
Final Score: Millfield 10-27 Sedbergh
15. Atkins 14. Hall 13. Coombes 12. Hyde 11. Hopkins 10. Donaldson 9. Whiteley (captain); 1. Nixon 2. Lester 3. Catlin 4. Owlett 5. Allen 6. Radford 7. Reeves 8. Ransom.
Replacements: James, Davison, Bayliss.
15. McPhillips 14. Stevenson 13. Wooton 12. Moorby 11. Kent 10. Giles 9. Christie (captain); 1. Orrit 2. Renwick 3. Erskine 4. Moon 5. Farmer 6. Greene 7. Wellock 8. Thornton.
Replacements: Blair, Summers, Thompson-Hatch