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Wilmslow into NatWest Cup semis after thrilling away draw at St Joseph’s

Wilmslow High School progressed to the semi finals of the U18 NatWest Cup after a 25-25 draw at St Joseph’s College.

Try countback saw them progress after the scores were level at full time, a cruel way for St Joseph’s to exit but it made for an exhilarating last few minutes of the game.

Any side can feel hard done by to go out following a draw, but most neutrals would probably agree that the right team went through, even if it was tough to separate them. Wilmslow had the look of a side playing to their potential, while St Joseph’s made two many errors in the ten minutes either side of half time.

Wilmslow’s star man was undoubtedly right winger Brogan Wilson, who scored a brilliant hat-trick that included two long range interceptions and a stunning long range solo effort. Without his pace, eye for a gap, and ability to spot the opposition pass early, this game could have ended very differently.

St Joseph’s bookended the game well, going 10-0 up early on and chasing down a 25-13 deficit to earn the draw, it was the middle period that saw Wilmslow seize this opportunity to play Dulwich College, the triple champions, at Allianz Park in ten days time.

An early Tom Emery penalty edged the home side in front before a stunning Adrian Sanday try, converted by the outstanding Emery, put them 10 points clear with twenty minutes gone. It was a truly special try from Sanday, who looked a livewire in attack throughout.

As the game edged towards half time, St Joseph’s seemed in control, though whenever Wilmslow moved the ball wide with pace it seemed a potential problem. Only Ethan Waddleton’s outstanding cover tackling had prevented a couple of potential try scoring chances. His injury late in the half was a hammer blow to the home side.

With only just over five minutes to the break, Wilmslow suddenly exploded into life though, as Wilson carved his way through the St Joseph’s defence deep inside Wilmslow territory before accelerating away to score a simply sensational try, halving the deficit to 10-5.

Within minutes his side were scoring again, this time through captain Chris Taylor. The Sale Sharks hooker, outstanding all day – a real driving force for his side, rumbled around the corner from a driving maul to level the scores.

St Joseph’s looked shell shocked but managed to rouse themselves for one final attack of the half, only to plop the ball right into the hands of the danger man Wilson, who once again raced away to score under the sticks, with Luke James’ conversion on the stroke of half time giving Wilmslow a 17-10 lead at the break – an unthinkable margin when they were 10-0 down midway through the half.

It was a game that was at the mercy of momentum, whenever either side had it they looked unstoppable, and that was a trend that was to continue into the second half.

St Joseph’s stemmed the tide a little early on as Emery and James exchanged penalties and for the next ten minutes or so both had chances but it felt as though this really was becoming Wilmslow’s to lose.

That theory started to look even more ingrained as with St Joseph’s searching desperately for a try that could level the scores, Wilson once again intercepted with the line within touching distance for St Joseph’s. He raced away to complete his hat-trick and to put Wilmslow into an almost unassailable 25-13 lead.

It would have been it, but that score seemed to shake St Joseph’s into life, they started to cut out the errors that had littered their game and began to make the types of breaks that Emery, Ives, et al are revered for in these parts.

One such Emery break put his side deep into Wilmslow territory and as they shifted the ball to the other side full back Owen Betts’ eyes lit up as he saw the try line in sight, collecting the offload beautifully he darted over – suddenly momentum was with St Joseph’s and the crowd were back all the way up to eleven.

Time was running out fast though, St Joseph’s knew that 25-18 behind they needed two scores as a single converted try would only level the game and the try count was in Wilmslow’s favour.

Emery again was the beating heart of his side, and spotting a chance he took a quick tap while everyone else was talking about a possible lineout, bursting forward to release Betts for his second try of the game.

Emery, showing astonishing calmness, slotted the conversion to level the scores with only a minute left to play and his side came charging right back into Wilmslow territory.

Heartbreak beckoned for one side, and at that stage you feared for Wilmslow, such was the St Joseph’s momentum, however this gnarly team were unaffected by the pressure as they eventually snaffled possession before hooker and captain Chris Taylor, showing his all court game, hoofed the ball away for the final whistle cueing celebrations from the away side.

It was a truly magnificent cup tie, both will feel they could have won and either would have been heartbroken with defeat. As it was it was St Joseph’s who felt the heartbreak, their loyal support applauding them for minutes after the final whistle – they knew how much their team had given for this campaign.

For Wilmslow it was jubilation and a chance to go one better than in 2011, when they also reached the semi final, the first time they had done so.

It will be tough for them, Dulwich College are the triple champions and are one of the toughest sides out there to beat, but Wilmslow showed here at St Joseph’s that they can deal with a lot. St Joseph’s are a quality side, and this was a tough atmosphere to be an away side in. For Wilmslow to come through that was impressive, and some of their players are equally impressive, this could be an excellent semi final.

For now though they should bask in the glory of an excellent quarter final win and a thrilling cup tie.

Full Time: St Joseph’s College 25-25 Wilmslow High School (Wilmslow through on try countback).

Photos of the game can be seen on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby

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