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Millfield triumph after a thrilling weekend at the St Joseph’s Festival

Millfield won a thrilling 2014 St Joseph’s Festival, beating hosts St Joseph’s College 8-7 in the final after a day of rugby that went ebbed and flowed for just about every side in the competition as qualification for the final went right down to the wire.

The competitiveness of the tournament was shown by the extent to which everyone on the touchline had to become amateur mathematicians at the during the final round of group games, and the fact that no side won all of their games, Millfield came closest but a draw against RGS High Wycombe at the start of the day denied then that chance.

They followed that up with a 10-0 win over Merchiston Castle, who were probably the surprise package of the tournament, and were rightly rewarded for their efforts, which so nearly could have seen them make the final, with their number 8 Zak Mercer earning the Player of the Tournament award.

That result allied to Merchiston’s earlier win over Bedford and a draw between RGS and Bedford meant that a Millfield win over Bedford would see them qualify for the final, but a defeat would see the group decided by a try countback.

Millfield beat Bedford 15-10 though, alleviating that need, though it did require a spectacular last play winner form Darren Atkins, who else, to avoid the maths getting involved.

That was not the case in Group A though, where St Joseph’s, Dulwich College, and John Fisher all ended the day on four points. Each beat Bradford Grammar School but won one and lost one against the other two.

It meant that going into the final round any could qualify, but St Josephs were favourites. However a 12-5 loss to Dulwich meant that John Fisher could leapfrog St Jo’s if they scored enough tries. At 33-5 up over Bradford GS when St Jo’s v Dulwich finished, Fisher needed just two more scores. The entire crowd moved from pitch one over to pitch two to get behind Bradford, who gave the crowd what they wanted, conceding just one score to allow St Joseph’s to go through by the tightest of margins.

What a final it set us up for, the hosts and holders, St Joseph’s College, who always play with such passion and emotion at this tournament of theirs, against the 2012 champions and possibly the most successful side in the competitions history, Millfield.

The final did not disappoint at all, St Joseph’s played with outstanding passion and commitment, giving everything for the 3000 or so supporters lining the touchline, while Millfield responded in frenzy, competing with real fervor.

They 2012 winners led 3-0 at half time thanks for a Darren Atkins penalty and nearly led by even more when the gifted full back made another of his customary breaks down the left wing. However a truly outstanding cover tackle from Taylor prevented the score and kept his team in the game.

It swayed the momentum in St Joseph’s favour and after a multitude of phases they barged over a few minutes into the second half, sparking celebration that was reminiscent of last year.

The conversion made it 7-3, however Millfield were as up for this as they have been for anything. Three times Adam Hastings went down in a heap and three times he refused to yield to his body’s demands, getting back to his feet and cajoling his teammates.

It paid off, only a couple of minutes after St Joseph’s took the lead Millfield were back in front, working the ball form one side to the other and back again to score I the left hand corner to give them an 8-7 lead.

Millfield had dominated the game but form that moment onwards it was just wave after wave of St Joseph’s attack. It was stirring stuff though, St Jo’s, camped on the Millfield line, were giving every last inch that they had, but Millfield were responding in kind, repeatedly knocking St Jo’s back off their line.

Just once did St Joseph’s breach that Millfield defence but alas for the hosts, it was held up, and with that came the end of the game.

It was simply heroic from Millfield, for whom Josh Bayliss and Gabriel Oghre were simply sensational. It is almost wrong to single them out though, the whole team was giving everything to repel the St Joseph’s attack, who were giving just as much the other way.

In the end it was heart wrenching for the home side, they gave everything they had and defied any perceived ‘underdog’ status before the competition. They will look back on this is a while though and doff their caps to Millfield, who had their travails throughout the day but stepped up massively for the final.

As did Brighton College in the Plate competition, they were disappointed not to make the trophy but responded to top their pool with three wins from three, before beating QEGS Wakefield 8-0 in the final.

It was a strange day for QEGS, they ended up in the final winning just one game and scoring only ten points, two 0-0 draws in their group managed to see them past Whitchurch, who paid the price for a only winning their games by a combined total of four points.

The final word must go to that final though. The atmosphere, as ever, was outstanding, and the passion on the field more than matched it.

St Joseph’s did themselves proud, shorn of the stars of last year they showed that those in this year’s squad can match them.

However Millfield showed just what an excellent group of players they are, they are given license to play the game how they see it, and they delivered, which says an awful lot about them.

That most of the other teams on the touchline opted to support them probably also does, there is a real respect there for them. And no wonder, defence like that last five minutes or so is worthy of it.

Once again, the climax of the St Joseph’s Festival leaves us with just one thought – what a competition this is.

We can’t wait for next year.

What did you think of the 2014 St Joseph’s Festival? Did the right team win it? Let us know what you think via @FifteenRugbyXV or leave a comment below.

Photos from the whole weekend are up on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby  

2014 St Joseph’s Festival Finals Day Results:

Final – St Joseph’s College 7-8 Millfield

Plate Final – Brighton College 8-0 QEGS Wakefield

Player of the Tournament: Zak Mercer (Merchiston Castle)

Try of the Tournament: Tom Marchant (Dulwich College)

Group A – Trophy

St Joseph’s College 12-5 John Fisher

Dulwich College 20-0 Bradford Grammar School

St Joseph’s College 30-0 Bradford Grammar School

Dulwich College 3-6 John Fisher

St Joseph’s College 5-12 Dulwich College

Bradford Grammar School 5-38 John Fisher

Group B – Trophy

Millfield 10-0 RGS High Wycombe

Bedford 0-15 Merchiston Castle

Millfield 10-0 Merchiston Castle

Bedford 3-3 RGS High Wycombe

Millfield 15-10 Bedford

Merchiston Castle 17-0 RGS High Wycombe

Group W – Plate

Brighton College 8-3 Solihull

St Peter’s Gloucester 0-33 Hampton

Hampton 3-10 Brighton College

St Peter’s Gloucester 0-8 Solihull

Brighton College 21-10 St Peter’s Gloucester

Hampton 22-0 Solihull

Group X – Plate

Denstone College 0-3 Whitchurch HS

QEGS Wakefield 0-0 RGS Newcastle

Denstone College 27-7 RGS Newcastle

QEGS Wakefield 10-0 Whitchurch 

Denstone College 0-0 QEGS Wakefield

RGS Newcastle 15-16 Whitchurch

2014 St Joseph’s Festival – Day 2 Trophy Group A Final Standings

Pos

Team

W

D

L

Points

1

St Joseph’s College

2

0

1

4

2

John Fisher

2

0

1

4

3

Dulwich College

2

0

1

4

4

Bradford Grammar School

0

0

3

0

*St Jo’s through on countback.

2014 St Joseph’s Festival – Day 2 Trophy Group B Final Standings

Pos

Team

W

D

L

Points

1

Millfield

2

1

0

5

2

Merchiston Castle

2

0

1

4

3

RGS High Wycombe

0

2

0

2

4

Bedford

0

1

1

1

2014 St Joseph’s Festival – Day 2 Plate Group W Final Standings

Pos

Team

W

D

L

Points

1

Brighton College

3

0

0

6

2

Hampton

2

0

1

4

3

Solihull

1

0

2

2

4

St Peter’s Gloucester

0

0

3

0

2014 St Joseph’s Festival – Day 2 Plate Group X Final Standings

Pos

Team

W

D

L

Points

1

QEGS Wakefield

1

2

0

4

2

Whitchurch High School

2

0

1

4

3

Denstone College

1

1

1

3

4

RGS Newcastle

0

1

2

1

*QEGS through on countback.

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