If Uppingham v Woodhouse Grove is the barometer for excitement in this new Schools Champions Trophy then sign us up as its number one fans.
Woodhouse Grove came into this game off the back of a surprise defeat to St Peterâ€™s York, but they also came in as the current holders of the Daily Mail Trophy. Make no mistake, they were schoolboy heavyweights last year and they want to be again this time around.
Uppingham by contrast arrived off the back of a stinging 51-0 defeat to Bedford, yet with two wins prior to that, they knew that they had a solid foundation if they made their tackles and got their heads in the right place pre game.
That pre game information gives a bit of context, but no amount of context could really prepare anyone for what was to unfold.
With just over ten minutes left to go in the game, Uppingham trailed Woodhouse Grove 8-6, as they had done since a Bailey Worcester penalty with a minute to go in the first half had nudged the Daily Mail trophy champions ahead following a try by George Styles a couple of minutes before to bring them within a point of Uppinghamâ€™s two early penalites.
At that point though, with ten minutes of the game to go, the game turned on its head. First Woodhouse Grove lost a man to the sin bin. They had been struggling to work with the interpretations of the referee all game, and had conceded an earlier sin binning too, however this one really hurt. No sooner had the card been given than Uppingham were off and moving, searching for an opening.
The home side showed excellent patience, as they had all game, and as they kept hold of the ball that opening soon materialised and their outstanding full back squirted through to score an excellent try.
Indeed the Uppingham full back was one of the best players on the park, not least for his eagle eyed boot, with which he slotted the touchline conversion to give his side a 13-8 lead with barely any time on the clock at all by the time the restart was completed.
Woodhouse Grove looked down and out. Uppingham were buoyant, their ever growing home support had moved into full voice as they trawled over from their various training sessions, and time was very much on their side.
Woodhouse Grove stayed calm though, they might have had a high turnover of players this summer but that sense of calm and control that was required for the brilliant run last season sees still to be there.
They pushed and probed, collecting a few decisions from the referee as they played their way deep into Uppingham territory. Still though they needed some inspiration. Uppingham had the luxury of knowing that penalties would not do for the away side, and therefore could focus purely on not allowing their defence to be breached.
Quality always finds a way though and it was a moment of quality that was to be the defining moment of this opening game of the inaugural Schools Champions Trophy.
Woodhouse Groveâ€™s outstanding outside centre, George Styles, received the ball on the 22, cut back off his right foot and darted away from the outstretched defendersâ€™ arms before showing a neat turn of pace to race away under the posts, sparking huge celebrations from his side.
That brought the scores to 13-13 but with the try being under the posts it was quickly 15-13 to the Yorkshire side through the boot of Bailey Worcester.
It was a sensational climax to the game but there was still more to come. In their haste to get the points settled, there was still enough time on the refereeâ€™s watch for one last play.
Uppingham won their own kick off before launching an assault on the Woodhouse Grove 22. With their supporters baying for a score Uppingham probed and probed and probed.
Wave after wave arrived but just as they had the Woodhouse defence on the ropes, the ball spilled, a huge moment of misfortune, but an equally dramatic end to a final ten minutes of breathless action.
In the end a Woodhouse Grove victory was probably deserved, they were just about the better side, though Uppingham will certainly feel that this was a game that they could, and possibly should have won. For Woodhouse Grove it was a hurdle passed, though they know that this competition is going to be a series of ever increasing hurdles.
What a beginning for the Schools Champions Trophy!
Full Time: Uppingham 13-15 Woodhouse Grove
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