When Oundle and Bromsgrove meet at 3pm on Saturday at Allianz Park, it will be represent the furthest that either side has ever gone in this competition.
Indeed neither side had ever reached the national stages of the competition until this year, so already both have an incredible amount to be proud of.
That should not be taken to mean that these are two schoolboy minnows though, no, far from it. Simply that these are two sides who have rarely entered this competition and, in Oundleâ€™s case, when they have they have often been found in the same section as Oakham, one of the most famous Cup schools in the country.
Indeed as a schoolboy this writer regularly played both, and they were both schools to be reckoned with. Products like Ben Foden, from Bromsgrove, and Dave Walder, from Oundle, tend not to happen just by chance.
This year though they have been immense, Bromsgrove have just two defeats to their name, while Oundle have just three, all five between them have been against top class opposition.
One results stands out above all other though; Oundle 20-26 Bromsgrove, Saturday 27th September 2014.
What impact will that game have on this semi final? Both teams will publicly say not much, but there must be some, Oundle motivation will surely only be increased by a desire to avenge that result, while Bromsgrove will surely take confidence from knowing that they can and already have beaten Saturdayâ€™s opponents.
Nevertheless there should not be too much significance placed on that game, Oundle had a realatively slow start to the season, all three defeats came in the first month of the season, but since the beginning of this Cup competition early in October they have been unstoppable, going unbeaten since then and producing some staggering results.
Who can say what impact the occasion will have on these players, how they will take to playing in a stadium, on an artificial surface, in front of so many passionate spectators.
Both have impressed throughout the Cup campaign, Oundleâ€™s best result was arguably their 52-12 thumping of Kingâ€™s Worcester in the last 16, that was probably the result that made onlookers really sit up and take notice of them as genuine contenders in this competition. Their quarter final effort over Lymm High School was just as impressive though, a 21-12 victory with a stunning first half performance, against a side with England age-group half backs who posed a real threat.
Bromsgrove have been no less impressive though, their draw has been as tough as it gets, beating Solihull, Warwick, and Bloxham in rounds 4, 5, and 6, with their 61-17 victory over Solihull sending out a real signal as to just how good they are.
The biggest signal of all though was beating Stamford 23-15 in the last 16. Stamford were unbeaten up to that point this season and only something special from Bromsgrove would do it, to then back that up with a 44-17 quarter final win over Dauntseyâ€™s in the quarter final was very special indeed.
Both sides have an abundance of top quality players, fly half and captain for Bromsgrove Luke White, and the Curry brothers on the flanks for Oundle to name just a few.
On the coaching side things are no less exciting, nor any less nip and tuck. Oundle are led by John Olver and Simon Hodgkinson, England internationals both, while Bromsgrove are also led by a pair of ex pros in Tony Windo and Paul Mullan. Mullan and Olver both also have top class rugby playing sons, Mullanâ€™s son Matt is an England international and Wasps regular, while Olverâ€™s son Sam is in the Northampton Saints Academy and won the Junior World Championship in June with England U20.
Choosing between the two sides on Saturday is no easy task. Bromsgroveâ€™s game is perhaps more suited to a pitch that is going to encourage a fast pace plenty of running, but Oundle are hardly unsuited. Oundleâ€™s back row is just about as good as it gets though, they cover a staggering amount of ground and you suspect they will fancy their chances of slowing or turning over a lot of ball in Bromsgrove to start looking to run them wide and ragged.
The battle that could be defining then could be that between the players mentioned before, Bromsgrove fly half Luke White, and the Oundle back row of the Curry brothers and Francis Cundell. If Oundleâ€™s back row get White dropping deep it ought to give the likes of Angus McRae in their back three plenty of opportunity. That said, White possesses a very good kicking game, and if he can get on the front foot and get his running and passing game going too, we could be in for an exciting afternoon.
This could well be one of the great NatWest Cup semi finals.
Oundle v Bromsgrove – U18 NatWest Cup Semi Final – Saturday 7th March, 15.00, Allianz Park
Stats & Prediction
Route to the Semi Final:
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: 55-5 v Hills Road
Round 4: 48-8 v The Perse
Round 5: 34-5 v Trent College
Round 6: 22-18 v Greshamâ€™s
Last 16: 52-12 v Kingâ€™s Worcester
Quarter Final: 21-12 v Lymm High School
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: 75-0 v Kind Edwardâ€™s, Lichfield
Round 4: 61-17 v Solihull
Round 5: 23-13 v Warwick
Round 6: 50-13 v Bloxham
Last 16: 23-15 v Stamford
Quarter Final: 44-17 v Dauntseyâ€™s
2014 NatWest Cup Record:
Oundle â€“ Round 3
Bromsgrove â€“ N/A
Best Cup Run:
Oundle â€“ 2015, Cup Semi Finals; 2011, Cup Round 5
Bromsgrove â€“ 2015, Cup Semi Finals; 2001, Cup Round 2 (Rarely Entered)
Oundle â€“ Francis Cundell, Number 8
Bromsgrove â€“ Luke White, Fly Half
Oundle â€“ John Olver & Simon Hodgkinson
Bromsgrove â€“ Tony Windo & Paul Mullan
XV Prediction: Bromsgrove, but by the narrowest of margins. This is going to be a very special semi final.
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