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Superb Millfield hold off late GSAL fightback to win Champions Trophy Final

It was said ahead of the game that the right two teams had reached the first ever Champions Trophy final, and by the time the final whistle went here at Allianz Park there could have been few who could question that statement.

Millfield scored five tries to claim a superb 31-24 victory, but had in fact been 31-7 up early on in the first half before a Tom Gorman inspired Grammar School at Leeds fought back to give the scoreboard an altogether more even look.

Both sides have travelled for near enough three hours to be here, staying overnight last night and busing in over 400 supporters each, on a school day, to provide a brilliant atmosphere.

Saracens’ artificial surface at Allianz Park was to proved vital in helping to produce an excellent game of rugby in drizzly conditions that on a grass pitch would have led to a stale forward orientated kicking game, however we were instead treated to some superb running rugby from both sides.

Within seconds it seemed that that running rugby was going to come to the fore as Darren Atkins released electric winger Harry Close to race away to give Millfield a 5-0 lead, leaving Grammar School at Leeds’ supporters in momentary shock.

The men with the blue stripe were on top, but Leeds gathered their composure and shortly hit back through captain Sam Ward, with Harrison Brown-Raw converting for the Yorkshiremen, whose excellent supporters were keen not to let anyone forget that geographical fact.

It was from there though that Millfield really won the game, producing a clinical twenty five minute spree that saw them score four quick tries either side of half time, taking the game away from the Grammar School at Leeds in a manner that many of this famous rugby school’s opponent will be familiar with this season.

Following Ward’s effort, Millfield’s skipper Bailey Ransom must have decided to prove a point in the captaincy stakes and quickly followed it with a captains try of his own. Hastings, who was having a brilliant game, as solid in defence as he was patient and creative in attack, converted to stretch take back the lead, 12-7.

As usual Darren Atkins was bustling from full back for Millfield, there was to be no magical try for him as in previous rounds but his languid running style was still casuing problems, while Josh Bayliss, along with the Ransom brothers in the back row, was causing mayhem.

It was Hastings who was to make the next inroads though, pouncing on some loose ball before chasing it down, hacking through, and collecting to score, some great all-round skills from the Scotland fly half. Hastings converted his own score right on the half time whistle to put the St Joseph’s Festival winners 19-7 up at the break.

That St Joseph’s Festival win might well have been key here, in that final ten minutes over in Suffolk last month, Millfield were camped on their own line holding out the St Joseph’s defence, and here at Allianz Park they faced exactly the same situation at the start of the second half.

Grammar School at Leeds came out on the offensive from the break but Millfield relied on that experience of last month and just repelled everything that Grammar School at Leeds could throw at them, though had the decision to disallow a Tom Gorman try for a knock on gone the other way then it could have been very different.

That is what top teams do though, they ride out the storms and then pounce, and that was exactly what Millfield did, having been under pressure for nearly ten minutes they then marched up the field, deep into Leeds’ territory. After sweeping one way and then the other, Hastings took the ball to the line and released tighthead prop Henry Peck on a brilliant line.

The big front row man flew through like a centre, and ran across the line unopposed. It was a moment that felt like the decisive blow in the game. What could have been 19-14 was now 24-7 in Millfield’s favour, and such was the momentum, it seemed hard to imagine them being overturned.

That seemed even more unlikely when a few minutes later Bailey Ransom went over for his second of the game following a brilliant driving maul from the Millfield forward pack, with Hastings floating over a lovely conversion it gave Millfield a 31-7 lead, and suddenly the memories of Dulwich’s superbly dominant NatWest Cup final victory in March were rushing to the forefront of the mind.

It is with that in mind that Grammar School at Leeds can travel home with their heads held as high as any defeated finalist ever can. From 31-7 down they fought back to 31-24 thanks to a Tom Gorman inspired try flurry.

First Harry Francis crossed to bring the scores closer at 31-14, but it seemed like little more than a consolation at the time, such was the way the momentum had gone.

Gorman made sure that that momentum changed though, hitting a brilliant line to make it 31-19 and suddenly giving his side real hope.

Millfield tried to attack but Grammar School at Leeds were now showing the bite that has seen them lose just once this term before this game. It all seemed to now avail though as Millfield’s steely defence was determined not to allow them through, until Gorman sensed his opportunity.

Only Darren Atkins’ wonderful efforts earlier in the tournament could rival this for try of the tournament as Gorman weaved inside and out from well within his own half, accelerating around the cover defence to scorch over in the left hand corner, it was truly sensational and a deserved moment of brilliance for both the player and the team as they added a real layer of pride to defeat, unfortunately for his side it was to be the final flourish though as the final whistle followed the missed conversion.

They could not quibble with the result though, over the course of the game Millfield really showed their quality, and that twenty-five minute period showed just how clinical they can be.

Having won both the Champions Trophy and the St Joseph’s Festival in one term, the question really must be asked as to just how good this Millfield side is? Could they be one of the greats? Their trophy haul certainly argues so.

One of the greats or not, they are certainly a side worthy of huge praise, as is this wonderful new tournament, which will surely now become a staple of the schools rugby calendar. It has been an will surely remain a privilege to play our small part in it.

What a final it was to finish on, Grammar School at Leeds were wonderful competitors who showed true fighting spirit, but the fullest of praise must go to Millfield, Champions Trophy winners, St Joseph’s Festival winners, and a joy to watch.

Full Time: Millfield 31-24 Grammar School at Leeds

Highlights of the game are available here: Champions Trophy Final highlights

You can watch a full re-run of the match here: Champions Trophy Final in full

Photos of the game are available on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby

Scorers:

Millfield

Tries – Close, Ransom 2, Hastings, Peck

Conversions – Hastings 3

Grammar School at Leeds

Tries – Ward, Francis, Gorman 2

Conversions – Brown-Raw 2

Teams:

Grammar School at Leeds

15 Jonathan Haslem,  14 Max Kay,  13 Tom Gorman,  12 Will Newett,  11 Chris Bridge,  10 Harrison Brown-Raw,  9 Harry Bolser;  1 Abhijeet Oswal,  2 Sam Ward (c),  3 Dominic Hardman,  4 Harry Francis,  5 Simon Phillips,  6 Jonathan Webster,  7 Harry Mawer,  8 Will Shepherd.

Replacements:  16 Gerard Ellis,  17 Robert Dunn,  18 Alex Roney  19, Will Barker,  20 Jake Mitchell,  21 Tom Megson,  22 Luke Powderly.

Millfield

15 Darren Atkins,  14 Hadleigh Tucker,  13 Kieran Griffiths,  12 Henry Carling Parkinson,  11 Harry Close,  10 Adam Hastings,  9 Josh Barton;  1 Nick Isbister,  2 Aston Lester,  3 Henry Peck,  4 James Dun,  5 Rory Mitchell,  6 Josh Bayliss,  7 Harry Ransom,  8 Bailey Ransom (c).

Replacements: 16 Alex Tiarks,  17 Alastair Crossley,  18 Jonny Lane,  19 Oliver Dawe-Lane,  20 Cameron Brown,  21 Cian Kennedy,  22 Josh Wright.

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