Barnard Castle booked their place in the Schools Champions trophy quarter finals today with an impressive 42-0 win over Reading Blue Coat.
Having seen Epsom College, Grammar School at Leeds, and Millfield all progress yesterday, Barnard Castle knew that the next round was going to be an exciting one to be a part of, and given the theoretical gap in class between them and Blue Coat, they will have been confident of success and eager to get going.
It was not going to prove as easy as all that though, Reading Blue Coat also knew what an opportunity they had, and they came out hungry for work and eager to cause an upset.
For large parts of the game, and the first half particularly, they frustrated Barnard Castle and, through their maul in particular, posed a real threat too.
Barnard Castle took the lead through a penalty after ten minutes or so but it was only after a brace of tries from Clouston on the left wing that they looked comfortable, at 13-0 up going into half time.
Blue Coat were very much in the game and were forcing Barnard Castle into errors, while the visitors were also a touch guilty of watching proceeds rather than getting stuck in during the first half.
Head Coach Martin Pepper fixed that with a few choice words at the break, and his side came roaring out to score a further five tries. Ordinarily you might say that this was due to the beaten sideâ€™s heads dropping or their fitness failing them, but on this occasion you would have to say it was due to Barnard Castle stepping up and executing, they were far more clinical and precise in the second half.
Blue Coat did not give up at any point, even in the dying minutes they twice made last ditch tackles to drive Barnard Castle into touch, saving the try. Sides whose heads have dropped do not make those tackles.
The tries were well spread, every ten minutes or so throughout the half until one score right at the death followed another just a couple of minutes before. Barnard Castle had looked impressive in the second half, their pack look mobile and strong, whilst their centre partnership looks tough and fleet of foot, a useful combination in any side.
Being a school with such a rich rugby heritage, it should not have been a surprise to see hordes of Barnard Castle parents on the touchline, yet it was still impressive â€“ this is a school and a region that is deeply passionate about their rugby. So much so that a trip from Durham to Reading was nothing to them.
With news filtering through that Bradford Grammar School had fallen 17-22 to Oakham, and Woodhouse Grove had lost to Eton College, Barnard Castle and Grammar School at Leeds will be flying the flag for the North in the quarter finals.
Also following Millfield and Epsom College from yesterday are Marlborough and RGS Guildford. Barnard Castle will fancy their chances of progressing, but will hope to miss out on one of the giants in the next round.
The beauty of this new competition though is that at the quarter final stage, you would have to say that most of these are giants. And Barnard Castle are as big a name in schoolboy rugby as anyone.
Hats off to Reading Blue Coat though, they knew that coming in but they did not let that shrink them, they used it to spur them on and they battle away for seventy minutes, leaving the field with full respect from Barnard Castle.
Full Time: Reading Blue Coat 0-42 Barnard Castle
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