Grammar School at Leeds and Millfield will meet in the first ever Schools Champions Trophy final at Allianz Park for a 14.30 kick off tomorrow.
Right from the start of the tournament these two sides were earmarked as potential finalists, their closest challenger seemed likely to be an excellent Epsom College side, however Oakham halted their progress at the quarter final stage.
That is not to say that both sides have enjoyed a simple route to qualification, both have had to fight tooth and nail for their place in this final, and both have stared defeat in the face only to mount stunning charges to grab victory.
It has been games like that that have marked this new competition out as a success in its first season, 32 top quality teams entered and have so far produced twenty-seven games of brilliant rugby.
The last sixteen was arguably the defining round for both teams. Grammar School at Leeds arrived in Bedford unbeaten but looking to prove themselves against a top quality side in the south. It looked as though they might falter having gone down by a couple of tries but fought back brilliantly to win it 13-10 with a late penalty. It was the moment that the rest of the competition realised just how determined this group is.
For Millfield it was a home tie against Tonbridge, the first Champions Trophy game to be streamed by the RFU, as tomorrowâ€™s final will be. Millfield fell to a 14-0 deficit to the Ben Earl inspired Kent side but a virtuoso display from England U18 full back Darren Atkins saw Millfield mount a stunning comeback to win 16-14. It was the sort of display that Atkins has repeated time and time again in this tournament.
It was no surprise that these two teams were able to mount such comebacks though, these are two serial groups of winners.
This Grammar School at Leeds 1st XV won the NatWest Cup as U15s, always a sure sign of bright things to come at 1st XV level. That confidence and ability has shone through all season, resulting in a term that has so far only seen them defeated once, to 2013 Daily Mail Trophy Champions Woodhouse Grove.
The Millfield 1st XV have already bagged silverware this season, at the end of October they lifted the prestigious St Josephâ€™s Festival title for the second time in three years, producing a display of awesome determination against the hosts in the final. That type of sheer desire to win will be hard for the Yorkshire side to beat if Millfield can produce it tomorrow.
Even the build up to the game is intriguing; both have taken very different approaches. Grammar School at Leeds opted to postpone their Saturday fixture in order to rest and prepare for this game, while Millfield took a long trip from Somerset to Croydon to play Whitgift, a side who have beaten the mighty Sedbergh this year.
Had Millfield lost of suffered a few injuries then that opposite approach could really have worked in GSALâ€™s favour, however Millfield will probably feel that they have now arrive at Allianz Park with a little more momentum after dominating Whitgift in a 41-10 display, and coming away relatively unscathed, it was quite a statement of intent.
Choosing between the two is tough, both are clearly top teams and are not just skillful but have outstanding determination, they do not just play to victory, they work for it.
The artificial surface at Allianz Park might just suit Millfieldâ€™s all court running game, but to write off Grammar School at Leeds because of that would be naÃ¯ve in the extreme, they have some excellent runners of their own.
On a big artificial surface what is often overlooked is the importance of kicking in open play. Extra run and bounce that kicks get means that full backs must be perfectly positioned and a well aimed kick into space can gain huge amounts of field position.
What Grammar School at Leeds might feel will play in their favour is how settled their side is. Millfield have to chop and change a bit for Champions Trophy games due to the three import rule, while GSAL have a settled unit owing to very few new additions at 6th form.
One way or another, it is going to be a classic ecounter!
Champions Trophy Final: Grammar School at Leeds v Millfield â€“ Wednesday 26th November, Allianz Park, 14.30.
Route to the Final:
Grammar School at Leeds 31-8 RGS Newcastle
Grammar School at Leeds 13-10 Bedford
Grammar School at Leeds 24-15 RGS Guildford
Grammar School at Leeds 29-15 Barnard Castle
Grammar School at Leeds v Millfield
QEGS Wakefield 6-17 Bedford
Caterham 14-26 Eastbourne College
Eastbourne College 0-41 RGS Guildford
Cranbrook 25-37 RGS Guildford
Reading Blue Coat – BYE
Reading Blue Coat 0-42 Barnard Castle
Barnard Castle 12-11 Marlborough College
Barnard Castle 49-14 RGS Lancaster
Gordonâ€™s 3-17 Eltham College
Eltham College 11-15 Marlborough College
Kingâ€™s College Taunton 5-17 Marlborough College
Millfield School â€“ BYE
Millfield 16-14 Tonbridge
Millfield 29-17 Eton College
Millfield 32-17 Oakham
Tonbridge 61-0 Reading
Uppingham 13-15Â Woodhouse Grove
Woodhouse Grove 12-38 Eton College
Eton College 56-12 Haileybury
Oakham Schoolâ€“ BYE
Oakham 22-17 Bradford GS
Oakham 17-15 Epsom College
Durham 16-19 Bradford GS
Epsom College 48-0 Bishopâ€™s Stortford HS
Epsom College 40-17 Blundells
Colstonâ€™s 15-36 Blundellâ€™s