If it was not already clear, nobody should what a Schools Champions Trophy fixture expecting anything less than great excitement and a stunning game of rugby.
That was exactly what Sedbergh and Radley College served up this afternoon as Sedbergh secured a 56-31 victory on Radley College turf in a game that showcased everything that is good about this tournament.
It saw two good rugby schools who are not part of the same circuit get the chance to play each other, for large parts looked like it could go either way, and it provided us with serious competition and a heap of quality tries. What this tournament seems to serve up on almost a game by game basis in other words, it seems.
By rights, Sedbergh should have won this comfortably and, you could say, that ultimately they did. Twenty-five points is a comfortable margin and scoring fifty points is certainly the sign of a side doing something right.
However before we look at Sedbergh’s attacking brilliance, particularly towards the end, we have to talk about Radley College, who scored a try with twenty minutes remaining to go 31-27 ahead.
To have even put themselves in that position was a stunning achievement from Radley, whose forward pack where on top throughout the game, with Charlie Barber and Jamie Cunningham particularly impressive. Tighthead Hugo Eyre bagged a brace and was part of a Radley maul that Sedbergh never truly found a way to deal with.
What was all the more impressive about Radley was that Sedbergh had raced away to a 12-3 start after just ten minutes through tries from Will Lewin and the exceptional England U18 fly half Ali Crossdale.
Despite only having a Charlie Davies penalty to their names Radley managed to rally and start to get the upper hand, aided by some poor discipline from Sedbergh as Charlie Le Grice scored to narrow the gap.
Be under no illusion though, this is a very good Sedbergh side, with a backline that will terrorise any defence it comes up again. Crossdale is exceptional, while the likes of Phelan at full back, Keh on the wing, , and Lavery at outside centre, to name but a few, are stunning broken field runners.
That sort of quality allowed them to score two further tries before half-time, first through Keh, followed by a wingers effort from tighthead prop George Bentley.
Haunting Sedbergh though was that discipline, and that cracked again when Hutchinson was sent to the bin. Davies took advantage of that for Radley as he scored and then converted his own try.
All of that left the half time score with Sedbergh 24-17 ahead. Suspicion was that perhaps Sedbergh might just pull away following a bit of half time advice. However it was Radley who rallied and, through those two Hugo Eyre tries, put themselves 31-37 ahead with twenty minutes left in the game.
It really felt that the upset was on, certainly the Radley supporters thought so. However it is in those dark moments that they very best teams kind find another level, and Sedbergh are most certainly one of those very best teams.
For the final twenty minutes they played a brand of counter attacking rugby that was, frankly, unstoppable.
It all began with a Crossdale penalty just to calm the nerves and reduce the deficit to just a point, and then Sedbergh just began to wind up the tempo, looking for quick lineouts and mismatches whenever possible. It quickly paid dividends as Crossdale scorched under the sticks following a quick lineout and some smart running and a lovely offload from Keh.
Phelan then scored two near identical tries after breaks in midfield and more delightful offloading released him to score beneath the posts twice in two minutes. In ten minutes Sedbergh had gone from 31-27 down to 51-31 ahead. Stunning.
All that remained was for Crossdale to complete his hat-trick, and so he duly did with a delightful chip for himself in the final play of a game, notching up a personal thirty-one point tally, quite a remarkable achievement.
It was truly a remarkable attacking display in that final twenty minutes from Sedbergh, but it was remarkably brave play from Radley in the lead up to it and they can come out of this defeat with their heads held high.
For Sedbergh, they remain one of the favourites for this tournament. They know there are areas that will need to improve against some of the very best, but they also know that they possess the quality to run most sides off the park.
They also know that they to have plenty of heart, coming from 31-27 down to win 56-31 takes more than just quality it takes guts and determination to dig yourselves out of that hole. That, perhaps, is what is most impressive.
Full Time: Radley College 31-56 Sedbergh
15.Rupert Elmhirst, 14. Charlie Riley, 13. Charlie Le Grice, 12. Rufus Wallis, 11. Max McGrigor, 10. Charlie Davies, 9. Luke Stalder, 1. Charlie Barber, 2. Charlie Betton, 3. Hugo Eyre, 4. Alex House, 5. Richie Horton, 6. Jamie Cunningham, 7. Ollie Henderson, 8. Tom Oliver.
Replacements: 16. Freddie Marshall, 17. Hugo Adams, 18. Casper Hart, 19. Paddy Langdale, 20. Jack Elvin, 21. Charlie Saker, 22. Alex McGrigor.
15. George Phelan, 14. Will Lewin, 13. Micharl Lavery, 12. Kyle Kitney, 11. Jonny Keh, 10. Ali Crossdale, 9. Charlie Gowling, 1. Theo Smith, 2. Ed Irons, 3. George Bentley, 4. Jack Bonham, 5. Matthew Addison, 6. Jack Hutchinson, 7. James Botham, 8. Hayden Thompson-Green.
Replacements: 16. Wade Williams, 17. Will Ballard 18. Will Hill 19. James Lister, 20. Harry Laidler.
Tries – Le Grice, Davies, Eyre x2
Cons – Davies x4
Pens – Davies
Tries – Lewin, Crossdale x3, Keh, Bentley, Phelan x2
Cons – Crossdale x5
Pens – Crossdale x2
Yellow Card – Hutchinson